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
Mr. Masateru Fujisaki
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.
Children in school gymnasium
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
||Mr. Kamata, Nishida Elementary
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