by Marge Kelly

Friendship Visit to Nishida Elementary School
September 28, 2007

In the spring of 2004, I represented the Norfolk Doll Club in sending a blond hair, blue-eyed American Girl doll and accessories to Nishida Elementary School in Kagoshima City. Rosie Skiles of the former J.A.D.E. (Japanese Asian Doll Enthusiasts) organization arranged for J.A.D.E. members to send new Friendship Dolls to Kagoshima Prefecture since all of the original 209 dolls sent in 1927 had been destroyed or lost during World War II. Sumio Nemoto, Planning Manager for Yamakataya Department Store in Kagoshima City, coordinated the distribution of the new dolls to schools and other organizations in the Kagoshima City area. I also corresponded with Mr. Masaaki Ijichi, Principal of Nishida Elementary School, when I sent the doll to the school in 2004.

In January 2007, my husband Pete and I finalized our plans for a Far East cruise, and I was very excited to learn that one of our ship's ports was going to be Kagoshima City. I thought it would be exciting to try to visit Nishida Elementary School to meet the teachers and children. I wrote a letter to Mr. Ijichi, and I was delighted to receive the following letter in March:

My name is Mr. Fujisaki, the current principal at Nishida Elementary School. Mr. Masaaki Ijichi, to whom you sent the letter, retired last year in April. I have been his successor up to now. I also will retire at the end of March. Therefore, I want to tell the new principal of your visit to Kagoshima on September 28.

The doll that you sent to us named Ginny Anne Ballard now is displayed in the library. She is loved by the children, and they change her clothes when the seasons change. They will be eagerly waiting to meet you. When you know your detailed schedule, please contact us. We will greet you with joy. Goodbye until the day of your visit.

Best regards,
Mr. Masateru Fujisaki

Children in school gymnasium
 Mr. Nemoto and Mr. Sakamoto, both from Yamakataya Department Store, met Pete and me at the pier when we arrived at Kagoshima Port on September 28. This store had sponsored a special homecoming exhibit in December 2002 for Miss Kagoshima, the Japanese Friendship Doll sent to the U.S. in 1927 and now kept at the Phoenix Museum of History. They took us touring and to tea before going to the school. We got a nice photograph together in front of a statue of Saigo Takamori, who led the unsuccessful Satsuma Rebellion against the Meiji government in 1877.

Our visit to the school was fantastic. The school, the principal, and the 496 students were all wonderful. We were treated like royalty. A huge sign in front of the school welcomed us. Even though there was a language barrier, it did not seem to bother any of us. We laughed and used gestures and body language to communicate when Mr. Sakamoto, our translator, was not around to translate.

Mr. Kamata, the school's principal, introduced Pete and me in the gymnasium to all the students as Ginny Anne's Father and Mother from America. We had presentations of gifts to each other. I brought a uniform for the doll made exactly like what the children wear. I also put a Japanese-American friendship pin on the uniform. The children were on their feet clapping when the principal held her up for them to see. The children sang a song to us, and then we had question and answer time. One little boy wanted to know if Ginny Anne had any brothers or sisters back in America. Another little girl wanted to know why I gave her away. I was talking to them from the stage, and Pete was next to me snapping pictures. I think the strangest thing was getting used to the children not reacting immediately when I told them something. Mr. Sakamoto would tell them in Japanese what I said, and then they would react.

Mr. Kamata, Nishida Elementary School
Principal, with Ginny Anne
Pete and I had a packed schedule in Kagoshima starting from 9 a.m., when the ship pulled in, to 5 p.m.. when we had to be back on board the ship for departure. Mr. Nemoto and Mr. Sakamoto could not have done any more to make our visit any nicer. They were the perfect hosts. We enjoyed lunch with them at Yamakataya Department Store. We had such a great time, and the day went all too fast.

What a fantastic trip we had. Each port had its own charm, but I must admit the best was our visit to Kagoshima. Japan is a beautiful country. I hope some day I can go back. Everyone was so nice and hospitable. Our visit to the school was such a memorable event.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions: Marge Kelly

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