Miss Akita
The Children's Museum, Detroit (Michigan)


Miss Akita is a gift sent to America from Akita Prefecture in the north of Japan. In early 1927 the children of Akita Prefecture received 193 "Blue-eyed Dolls" from the children of America. These dolls were displayed in April for about two weeks at the Akita Library, and about 4,000 visitors came to view these messengers of friendship from America. The Blue-eyed Dolls then were distributed to elementary schools and kindergartens throughout the prefecture.

Japan then made plans to send 58 Japanese Ichimatsu dolls almost three feet tall to the children of the United States. These dolls were given names of the prefectures, territories, and major cities of Japan. After a master doll maker in Tokyo made Miss Akita, the doll went to Akita Prefecture in October 1927 for a tour of the prefecture so the children could say farewell before she was sent to America. The doll was given the name of  "Fukiko Akita."

In 1988, Miss Akita and 18 other Japanese Ambassador Dolls from 1927 made a homecoming trip to Japan. In July, Miss Akita was displayed at Sogo Department Store in Sapporo. The name "Miss Akita" was engraved on the name plate in front of the wooden doll stand, but the doll on the stand was clearly not the same as the one in a photo taken in October 1927 when Miss Akita left Akita Prefecture for America. During the Japanese Ambassador Dolls' tour of the U.S. in 1928, some people undressed and dressed back the dolls, but not always with the same kimono. Also, the doll stands and doll accessories sometimes got mixed up between the 58 dolls. As a result, the identity of many Japanese Ambassador Dolls became confused.

In October 1990, the Yokote UNESCO Association held an exhibition of the nine remaining Blue-eyed Dolls in Akita Prefecture. With the support of many people, Miss Yukiko Yokote was made as a sister for Miss Akita and sent to the Children's Museum in Detroit, the home of Miss Akita. The Museum Director sent the following thank-you letter:

To Everyone in Yokote City,

We at the Detroit Children's Museum were very happy to receive Miss Yukiko Yokote, who will be a friend of Miss Akita, for the purpose of a new friendship between Detroit and Yokote. We plan to display Miss Akita and Miss Yokote, symbols of friendship, at an exhibition titled "Bridge of Peace." The children really appreciate this gift, and they want to be friends with the children of Yokote City through an exchange of letters and drawings. Please tell us what the children can do so we can continue this friendship.

Beatrice Parsons
Director, Detroit Children's Museum

The Yokote UNESCO Association worked with the American Consulate and local newspapers to realize a homecoming for Miss Akita to Akita Prefecture. However, they received the following reply from the Detroit Children's Museum:

Miss Akita participated in the Friendship Doll Exhibition held in 1988. The body of Fukiko Akita suffered some significant damage as she toured around Japan for six months, and she barely made it back to Detroit. It is very doubtful she can return to Japan unless she is repaired completely.

Photo used with permission of The Children's Museum, Detroit
Information for this article obtained from the web page in Japanese entitled
    "Aoi me no ningyou" (Blue-eyed Dolls) by Mr. Akio Kikuchi
    (see http://www.edinet.ne.jp/~gakuchi/blueeyes.htm)

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