in principal's office
On February 27, 2007, the 317 students of Esashi Odaki Elementary School
gathered in the gymnasium to celebrate the 80th birthday of their Blue-eyed
Doll named Pleasant Sunshine. The children gave her an apron and a cake as
birthday presents, and they all pledged to take good care of her always as
the school's treasure. Pleasant Sunshine came to Japan as one of 12,739
Friendship Dolls sent by Americans as goodwill ambassadors to Japanese
children, and she arrived at this school in Iwate Prefecture early in 1927.
She came with a passport, a rail and steamship ticket, and the following
December 12, 1926
Children of Japan:
This will introduce to you - "Miss Pleasant Sunshine" our courier of
This little lady brings you our very best wishes and we hope you will
welcome her to your homeland.
May her presence add a link in the great chain of friendship which
already exists between your country and our beloved America.
With best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and bright and happy New
Year, we are,
Very sincerely yours,
The Pleasantside Presbyterian Chapel
I found out about the Blue-eyed Doll at Esashi Odaki Elementary School when
reading an e-mail in late August 2007 from Mieko Sashima. She wrote that
teachers at the school were seeking information about other surviving
Blue-eyed Dolls in Iwate Prefecture. I sent her a reply about the 16
remaining dolls in Iwate, including the one at
School, where I had visited the previous two years. I mistakenly
thought she must be a teacher at the school in the way the note was
worded, so I offered to come visit the school during my planned
three-week trip to Japan in October. However, I found out in her reply
that her husband Kei had attended Esashi Odaki Elementary School about
fifty years ago, but she said her husband would contact the school's
principal to see whether a visit could be arranged. She also explained
that Esashi Odaki Elementary School's doll came from Peekskill, New
York. Her daughter working in New York City at the time was planning to
visit Peekskill City, north of New York City and on the east side of
the Hudson River, to try to find out information about the church that
sent Pleasant Sunshine to Japan in December 1926.
At dinner with Principal Yoshiaki Takahashi
(holding photo), Esashi Odaki teachers, Kei Sashima (standing on left), and
Mieko Sashima (far right)
I met Yoshiaki Takahashi, Principal at
Esashi Odaki Elementary School, and three teachers on Sunday evening
prior to my Monday visit to the school. We went to a traditional
restaurant in an old kura (storehouse). Mr. Takahashi started out
by saying that he had a speech prepared in English, but he was very glad
he did not need to deliver it to me since I could understand Japanese.
the history of Pleasant Sunshine, who was hidden in a corner of the
science room during World War II to avoid destruction by those who
considered the doll to be a symbol of the enemy. When the school building was being reconstructed in 1964, workers
discovered the doll in the nurse's room along with the accompanying letter and passport.
While we were waiting at the restaurant for food to be served, I was
surprised when Kei and Mieko Sashima walked in to join us after they had
driven about 90 minutes from Morioka City. They could only stay about 15
or 20 minutes before they had to leave, but I was very happy to meet the
two people who had put me in contact with Esashi Odaki Elementary
School. Although much of the dinner conversation centered on the school's
Friendship Doll, we also talked about a wide variety of subjects such as how different generations could
not recognize the songs of other generations. The principal, who will
retire at 60 next March, mentioned a few songs that nobody at the table
recognized. Vice Principal Teruhiko Yoshida, who was my same age at 50,
remembered well the songs of the early 70s by American bands such as the Allman
Brothers Band, Chicago, and Santana. He introduced himself with a very
stylish business card that has a photo of the school's Friendship Doll.
Chiaki Kusaka, a 5th-grade teacher who just got married a month before,
talked about her honeymoon plans next February for a trip to Las Vegas,
the Grand Canyon, and Los Angeles.
||Listening to question from
On Monday morning we met first in the principal's
office. I had the pleasure to first meet Koshi and Kimiko Hosokawa, who work
with Earth Kids Space,
an organization founded by the Goi Peace Foundation to sponsor events for
children to learn about peace and respect for all life and our environment.
Koshi, an accomplished photographer, presented me with CDs of photos of
Iwate nature and of children in Earth Kids Space activities. Soon reporters
from three or four local newspapers arrived and asked me and the principal
several questions about the Friendship Dolls, Pleasant Sunshine, and my
activities related to the Friendship Dolls.
School began on Monday with a short assembly in
the gymnasium for
all of the students to greet me. The principal told the students briefly
about the significance of the Friendship Dolls sent by America to Japan, and
I introduced myself. One 6th-grade student came to the front and read the
following welcome to me:
Mr. Bill Gordon, we are glad you have
come to Esashi Odaki Elementary School. We have been looking forward to
There is a Friendship Doll named Pleasant
Sunshine at our school. She is cherished by everyone at the school, and
she is displayed with care. The 6th-grade students so far have studied
about the time when Sunshine was sent from America and her discovery in the old
school building. We created a play and presented it. Last school year
everyone celebrated Sunshine's 80th birthday.
We think of Sunshine as a local treasure.
We would like to know more about the doll and want to take good care of
her. Today we want to learn a lot from you about Friendship Dolls. We
look forward to your talk.
Esashi Odaki Elementary School
Duet of Kimiko Hosokawa and Principal Yoshiaki
During the day's second and third class
sessions, I spoke to the 5th and 6th graders separately about the
history of the Friendship Dolls. During my first talk with the 5th
graders, I asked whether any of the children had heard of the "Blue-eyed
Doll Song," but nobody raised their hand. Then I asked the adults
sitting in the back, and I inquired whether anyone could sing a little of
the song. I was astonished when Kimiko Hosokawa of Earth Kids Space and
Principal Takahashi led the singing of the entire song below:
A blue-eyed doll,
Made of celluloid,
Was born in America.
When she arrived at a harbor in Japan,
She had many tears in her eyes.
I do not understand the language.
If I get lost, what should I do?
Warm-hearted Japanese girls,
Please be my friends and play with me.
Please be my friends and play with me.
Recognizing the talent of Kimiko and
Principal Takahashi, I had them come up to the front of the classroom
during my next period's presentation to the 6th graders. The children clapped
enthusiastically after they finished singing a magnificent duet of the
"Blue-eyed Doll Song" in which their voices seemed to complement
each other perfectly. Kosuke Yoshida, a retired man from
Iwate Town interested in the Friendship Dolls, also came to listen to my
talks, and at one point he explained to the 6th graders how the
"Blue-eyed Doll Song" written by Ujo Noguchi in 1921 became associated
with the Friendship Dolls received from America. His detailed
explanation delivered with enthusiasm also drew applause from the
The children in each class session asked
quite a few questions after my presentation. One girl wondered how both
Friendship Dolls had been kept in such good condition for so long. I
explained that Pleasant Sunshine actually had a new wig and dress, which
made her not look as old. The majority of the Japanese Friendship Dolls
sent to the US in 1927 had returned to Japan for restoration during the
last 20 years. One boy asked whether there were any boy dolls sent in
1927, and I replied that there were a few but most were girl dolls.
During my presentation I mentioned that 44 of the 58 Japanese Friendship
Dolls sent to the US in 1927 have now been located, so a student asked what had happened to
the other 14 dolls. I explained that there are no known instances where
a Japanese Friendship Doll was destroyed during World War II like what
happened to the majority of the American Blue-eyed Dolls. Most likely
the remaining 14 dolls are still lost somewhere rather than being intentionally
destroyed, so there is still hope of finding more of these historical dolls.
||With 5th-grade students looking
Mr. Takahashi, Principal at Esashi Odaki
Elementary School, expressed great enthusiasm about his school's doll,
Pleasant Sunshine. He had prepared a six-page history of the doll for me and
newspaper reporters, and I was very surprised to find that my visit was
already part of the history. The document prepared by Mr. Takahashi included statements from former
teachers and students about what they knew about the doll's history. He wanted me to try help to search for some
clues about who sent the doll, since the letter with the doll only had the name
of Pleasantside Presbyterian Chapel in Peekskill, New York, without any
names. He thought that maybe a local newspaper of the time might have
some mention of the doll. He even wrote a letter that was translated to
English, with attachments such as a
copy of the original 1926 letter, for me to deliver to someone related to
the Pleasantside Presbyterian Chapel. The last part of Mr. Takahashi's letter includes
the following words about the doll:
She is placed in the principal's office in
the same place as 80 years ago. She plays a special role in our school. Our
children learn about humanitarianism from the doll's story. They understand
the importance of international relations. They want peace for the world.
She has turned 80 years old. Our school's children had a birthday party for
her last February. The party appeared in some of the newspapers. One of our
graduates read the articles, and came and visited our school. He looked for
the Presbyterian Church, and he found Peekskill. I am looking for any
history on the doll. Do you have any information in your documents? Is there
anybody who knows about the doll? He or she must be very old. I am afraid it
is too late to research it. But I enclosed all of the attachments about the
doll in this letter. I'd be very glad if you would inform me of anything
about the doll.
I told the principal that I would gladly try
to contact someone next month in Peekskill, since it is only about two hours
by car from my home in Connecticut.
After the day's program was completed, the Vice Principal took Kosuke
Yoshida and me by car to Ichinoseki Station, and we stopped by a restaurant
to eat some delicious sushi for lunch. When I returned back home to the US,
I was very happy to receive a CD of about 100 photos taken by Koshi Hosokawa
of the day's activities. Some of these photos have been included on this web
page. I really appreciate the extremely warm welcome that the Esashi Odaki
Elementary School teachers and students gave to me, and I hope I will be
able to find out something in Peekskill, New York, about Pleasant Sunshine's
With 5th graders of Esashi Odaki Elementary School