Hatsuko, our Japanese Friendship Doll, will be turning 11 years old this coming March!
In her honor, during the month of February, we will be reading about Japanese culture, learning Japanese songs and phrases, and have the opportunity to prepare and taste traditional Japanese food.
Hatsuko was presented to Maple Dene & Moppet School by the Japanese Cultural Center in Spokane, Washington, in recognition of the scope and breadth of the school’s Earth’s Studies curriculum of Japan. Hatsuko’s name, given to her by the master doll maker who created her, means “first girl”, as she was the first doll he himself presented to a school in America. In honor of Maple Dene, maple leaves were hand painted on her kimono.
The Friendship Doll Program was begun by Dr. Sidney Gulick in 1927 as a message of goodwill from the people of the United States to the people of Japan. Having worked as a missionary in Japan for many years, Dr. Gulick was distressed at the deteriorating relations between the two countries. Knowing how much the Japanese people loved and respected dolls, Dr. Gulick, through churches and schools, was able to raise funds to purchase over 12,000 dolls to send as a gesture of friendship to Japan. Each doll carried an American passport, a one way ticket to Japan, and letters written by American children. They arrived in time for Hina Matsuri, the Doll Festival. The dolls were sent to Kindergartens and schools all over the country where they were loved and cared for. In return, Japanese master dollmakers were commissioned to make 58 Ichimastsu dolls, each the size of a five year old Japanese child, to send to America. Japanese children all over the country contributed one sen each to help fund the dolls.
The Japanese dolls arrived in America just in time for Christmas and carried Japanese passports, a one way ticket to America, and letters from Japanese children. During World War II many dolls were lost or destroyed. Over 300 American dolls have been found in Japan and 43 Japanese dolls have been located in America. Their stories are numerous; both moving and heart warming. Miss Tokushima resides in Spokane, Washington and Miss Kyoto at the Children’s Museum in Boston, MA.
In the spirit of Dr. Gulick’s original Friendship Doll Program, Michiko Takaoka at The Japanese Cultural Center at the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute in Spokane, Washington, in the early 1990s, created a new Japanese Friendship Doll Program. Through the generous donations from the people of Japan, in particular residents of the Nishinomiya and Hyogo Prefectures, over 1000 dolls have been given to various schools and organizations around the United States to promote cultural understanding and awareness. Having read about this program in the Five College Center for East Asian Studies newsletter, Maple Dene teachers applied to the program on behalf of the school. The Cultural Center was impressed with the scope and breadth of Maple Dene’s Earth Studies of Japan and the school was chosen as a recipient.