by Bill Gordon

Friendship Visits
Blue-eyed Dolls and Miss Miyagi Exhibit
May 23, 2003

Margaret Corbet, the 80-year-old owner of Miss Miyagi, traveled all the way from Larned, Kansas, to Miyagi Prefecture to exhibit her Japanese Friendship Doll. The Sendai City Museum of History and Folklore exhibited Miss Miyagi along with Miyagi Prefecture's eight Blue-eyed Dolls received from America in 1927, two dolls given by Mrs. Corbet to Miyagi elementary schools in 2000, and a New Blue-eyed Doll received by a Miyagi elementary school from Mr. Gulick, 3d, the grandson of the American missionary who organized the doll exchange between Japan and America in 1927. The exhibition ran from May 21 to 25, so my wife and I decided to drop by the museum one morning since we planned to pass through Sendai during our vacation in Japan. Also, I had visited several Miyagi elementary schools with Friendship Dolls in November 2001 and October 2002, so I looked forward to viewing all of the Blue-eyed Dolls of Miyagi Prefecture together.

Miss Miyagi (left) with
American Friendship Dolls

We arrived at the museum as the first visitors right at 9, since we were still waking up very early due to jet lag. When we were about to enter the special exhibition room for the dolls, we saw Toshiko Saito, the President of the Miyagi Blue-eyed Doll Study Group. Although we had met a couple of years earlier when she accompanied me to the elementary school from where she retired as a teacher, she seemed not to recognize me for a couple of seconds since she had no idea we would visit the exhibition. She presented us with a copy of the children's book she had written and published that week for the homecoming of Miss Miyagi. My wife and I marveled that she not only wrote the story but also drew all of the pictures. She showed us one detailed drawing of over 100 American dolls together when they arrived in 1927, and she said it took her a long time to draw each doll with different clothing and facial features.

Picture-Story Show for Children
While we were viewing the dolls and their various accessories (e.g., passports, original clothing, letters), two groups of 2nd-grade students came to view the dolls. Mrs. Corbet and her daughter Dody also arrived, and they shook each student's hand. The children then sat in the doll exhibition room to view kamishibai, a traditional Japanese picture-story show. This kamishibai had been created for the exhibit to tell the story of a Blue-eyed Doll from America that survived World War II.

After a couple of hours at the museum, we went with Mrs. Corbet and her daughter Dody to Matsushima, one of the top three scenic spots in Japan. This was my second visit, but I did not have a chance before to appreciate the many unusually shaped islands off the coast since my visit last year was at night. Tomoko Shizukuishi, who did much work to arrange the visit of Mrs. Corbet and her daughter, drove us to Matsushima. We ate lunch at an elegant restaurant with a fantastic view of the many islands, and then we went on a one-hour boat trip around the islands.

Margaret Corbet (right) and Daughter Dody
Visit Miyagi in 2003, Year of Sheep
During lunch Mrs. Corbet described her busy schedule during her short stay in Miyagi Prefecture, including visits to four elementary schools, a press conference, the opening ceremony for the exhibition, and several huge meals. She was happy many people could see Miss Miyagi, and she enjoyed meeting the children of Miyagi Prefecture.

Friendship Visits - May and June 2003

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