by Bill Gordon

Friendship Visits
Shintoku Kindergarten
May 27, 2003

With Class at Shintoku Kindergarten

I made my first visit to Shintoku Kindergarten in Kofu City in November 2001. Since then I have kept in touch with Kyoko Sakurai, Kindergarten Director, through e-mails and letters, so my wife Noriko and I decided to visit again. Mrs. Sakurai told me last year that her husband now works as Vice Principal at Kofu City's Aikawa Elementary School, which also has an American Blue-eyed Doll from 1927. I gladly accepted Aikawa Elementary's invitation to visit on the day before my visit to Shintoku Kindergarten and to talk to the students about the history of the Friendship Dolls. Mrs. Sakurai also sent me a note earlier this year to say that the passport of Evangeline, Shintoku's Blue-eyed Doll, had been found when the teachers were rearranging some boxes and papers in preparation for renovation of a couple of the school's wooden buildings.

Mrs. Sakurai Tells About
Finding of Doll's Passport and Letter
At the morning assembly of the kindergarten's 200 students, Ms. Sakurai showed Evangeline and explained the history of the doll. She told the children how Evangeline's passport, steamship ticket, and attached letter from her sender had been found recently. Before the assembly I had translated the letter hurriedly from English to Japanese so I could read it to the children. After the assembly, Noriko and I gave individual presentation to 5 groups of students (3 groups of 5-year-olds and 1 group each for 3- and 4-year-olds).

Noriko presented a children's book titled Don't Laugh at Me, which teaches children to respect differences in people. She also used a Minnie Mouse puppet to capture the children's attention. Noriko asked a teacher in each group to read in Japanese as Noriko read in English. Noriko then talked with them about the story, and a few children responded that some parts sounded sad. During my presentation, I showed the children how to shake hands and then talked about holidays that are popular with American children. Some 3-year-olds seemed afraid of the pumpkin Halloween mask I showed them, so I mentioned to Mrs. Sakurai afterward that I did not mean to scare anyone.

With Children at Shintoku Kindergarten
Noriko and I went to lunch with Mrs. Sakurai, and Mr. Tatsuhide Sakano accompanied us. He had read the article in the Yamanashi Nichinichi Shimbun about my visit to Aikawa Elementary School the previous day. He called Mrs. Sakurai in the morning of my visit to see if he could meet me for lunch. He and his wife had visited Rochester, New York, in 1979 with about 15 or 20 Blue-eyed Dolls from Yamanashi, Gunma, and other prefectures. He showed us photos from the visit, and we also read a couple of pages about the trip from a Friendship Doll book.

Just like my initial visit, Mrs. Sakurai was a wonderful host. We went with her and her husband to a sushi restaurant on the night of our arrival in Kofu City. The dishes of sushi and other food went around on a rotating belt, and we could choose what we wanted as it passed our table. They explained our schedules in detail for the next two days at Aikawa Elementary School and Shintoku Kindergarten. We ate lunch on Monday (May 26) at Mrs. Sakurai's home, right behind Shintoku Kindergarten. We joked about her commuting time of three seconds to work, but she explained that every day, including weekends, work needed to be done.

Mrs. Sakurai With Friend
Mrs. Sakurai told us how exciting it has been to make new friends through the Blue-eyed Doll Evangeline at her kindergarten. For example, a couple of years ago she went to a hot springs resort, and she was surprised to meet the director of another kindergarten (Seishin Kindergarten in Gunma Prefecture) that has a Blue-eyed Doll from 1927 and a New Blue-eyed Doll from Mr. Sidney Gulick, 3d. Mrs. Sakurai and the director from Seishin continue to correspond about the Friendship Dolls and other issues.

The high level of energy Mrs. Sakurai always exhibited impressed Noriko and me. Noriko also was interested to hear that Mrs. Sakurai has been studying about gender-free educational programs with some other people such as a local professor doing research on women's studies. Mrs. Sakurai's enthusiasm, friendliness, and energy showed us how she positively influences the lives of the children at her kindergarten.

Class Photo 

Friendship Visits - May and June 2003

Page on Shintoku Kindergarten's Blue-eyed Dolls
November 2001 Friendship Visit to Shintoku Kindergarten

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