Seventy years ago, 5.3 million people, Japanese and Americans, were motivated to reach out to each other and to make friends across the wide Pacific Ocean. They did this in a most remarkable way: In 1927, 12,739 American dolls were sent by boat to Japan and, in return, 58 oversized gorgeous Japanese dolls were given to the United States. The 1927 "Doll Plan" was initiated by Dr. Sidney L. Gulick and his vision to build a "world neighborhood" with children and dolls. During the ensuing decades, many of the dolls were lost. Forty of the Japanese dolls have been found in the U.S., and 286 of the American dolls have been found in Japan.
Mukogawa Gakuin, under the leadership of Chancellor Akira Kusaka, proposed a homecoming of one of the Japanese dolls, Miss Hyogo, which would include the conservation, redressing and exhibition of this precious doll. After several years of planning, the Miss Hyogo Homecoming Committee was officially organized in December 1995. In March and April of 1997 Miss Hyogo returned to Japan for an exhibition, the first time in 70 years.
The fund raising campaign began in the fall of 1995. Special postcard sets were made and sold and thousands of people, American and Japanese, donated money. Americans in Washington and Missouri, as well as 14 other states, gave to the Miss Hyogo Project.
On March 20 at the Daimaru Kobe store, the 16-day Miss Hyogo exhibition opened with the headline, "Welcome Home Miss Hyogo after Serving for 70 years as a Friendship Ambassador." Nine American dolls who survived in Hyogo from Dr. Gulick's 1927 Doll Plan "attended," as well as 30 new American Friendship dolls. The new American Friendship doll exchanges were initiated by Dr. Sidney Gulick, 3d, and Mukogawa Gakuin. It was a great experience for everyone to see these silent survivors of the war in person. Many stood a long time and read the panels on display which chronicled the past 70 years. Children were surprised to see the size of Miss Hyogo (83 cm) and her gentle expression. Her gracious smile charmed everyone.
Over 1,200 people attended the first day! Miss Hyogo was also exhibited at the Hyogo Prefectural Children's Center in Himeji. More than 10,000 people from 21 prefectures, Americans and even a Japanese family from overseas attended the exhibition.
In honor of Miss Hyogo, many dignitaries attended a special reception held at the Kitano Club in Kobe on March 21. Mr. Toshitami Kaihara, Governor of Hyogo Prefecture, American Consul General Frederic Maerkle and his wife, a delegation from the St. Joseph Museum in Missouri and many other distinguished representatives of the cultural, government and business sector celebrated this historic event.
One of the most memorable moments was the first day of the exhibition. Mrs. Teruko Nakanishi, 75, came with a picture taken 70 years ago at the farewell party of Miss Hyogo and Miss Kobe held in October 1927. The picture shows Mrs. Nakanishi shaking hands with an American girl. The same picture appeared in the newspaper article on the display panels. Mrs. Nakanishi was so happy to see Miss Hyogo again that she came to the exhibit almost every day. Her presence impressed people very much.
Now Miss Hyogo is back in St. Joseph, Missouri. The welcome back reception will be held on May 10 at the Museum. So many people are looking forward to seeing Miss Hyogo.
We hope these new bridges of friendship between Missouri and Hyogo, the U.S. and Japan will continue to strengthen, and efforts people have begun with enthusiasm will continually be inspired by Miss Hyogo as she assumes her ambassadorial role. She is a tireless reminder of Japanese friendship.
Article published and photos used with permission of Mukogawa Women's University and the St. Joseph Museum
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