by Bill Gordon

Friendship Visits
Iai Asahioka Kindergarten
May 22, 2003

Learning to Shake Hands

I looked forward to visiting Iai Asahioka Kindergarten in Hakodate City since I spent two pleasant months in Hakodate studying Japanese in the summer of 1998. This January I found out Iai Asahioka Kindergarten has a Blue-eyed Doll named Allison from 1927. Tatsuya Matsuda in Kagawa Prefecture, who researches the Blue-eyed Dolls throughout Japan, sent me a newspaper article about the renaming of the kindergarten's doll in the fall of 2002 since the original passport had been lost.

Noriko Talking With Students
When entering the school, I could see Allison prominently displayed in a glass case next to an open area for playing and reading. A cute Japanese Ichimatsu doll named Hotaru sat next to Allison. The Assistant Director of the kindergarten explained to us the history of the school's Blue-eyed Doll. She showed several of the children's drawings of Allison. The kindergarten still has the original red dress and hat with lace trimming for the doll, but now they are ragged and torn. Allison now wears a stylish dress and hat made by hand a couple of years ago in a style and color similar to the originals.
Hotaru (left) and Allison (right)
I the late morning the kindergarten's 120 students gathered in the auditorium, where Allison and Hotaru were waiting for them on a table in front. I spoke to the children about the six most popular holidays for children in America--Valentine's Day, Easter, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I explained that New Year's Day, the most popular holiday for children in Japan, was not such a special holiday for American children. My wife Noriko talked to the children with a Minnie Mouse puppet from America. She then presented the children's book Don't Laugh at Me on the overhead projector. I read in English, and one of the kindergarten teachers followed with a Japanese translation. Noriko had done a first draft of a translation of the book, and Iai Asahioka's teachers made some changes to improve the translation before being read to the children.
Drawings of Allison
Near the end of the assembly the children sang the song "Blue-eyed Doll." Next, four children presented to us various artwork made by different classes. The artwork included the dolls Allison and Hotaru made of origami paper with drawings of their faces on paper plates with ribbons for hanging. The children also presented to us a photo collage of the school activities of the three-year-olds and a poster with people and flowers around a globe in the center. The teachers also gave us a decorative Japanese ball (temari).

After the assembly, we visited the classrooms, where the students were eating delicious-looking bento box lunches with small portions of many different types of food. The Assistant Director also gave me several newspaper articles about Allison, which I used to create a web page about Iai Asahioka Kindergarten's Blue-eyed Doll.

Friendship Visits - May and June 2003

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