Sunday, July 13, 2014

American Friendship Dolls

American Blue Eyed Dolls

In 1926, in a time of growing tensions between Japan and the US, Dr Sidney L. Gurlick came up with the idea to have american children send dolls to the children of Japan.
The Committee On World Friendship Among Children organized a campaign to gather dolls and send them to Japan in time to celebrate the Hina Matsuri (there are several articles on Hina Matsuri Doll Festival on Doll College) on March 3, 1927,  Many children and adults took part in the project and 12, 739 dolls were sent to japan as goodwill ambassadors.
Each doll had a name, passport, train and steamship ticket.  Also included was a handwritten letter by the dolls contributor.
When the dolls arrived in Japan, they were enthusiastically received in welcoming ceremonies throughout Japan.  The dolls were sent to kindergarten and elementary schools throughout the country.  The Japanese children loved the dolls very much.
The dolls soon became know as the, "Blue Eyed Dolls" based upon a popular song titled "Blue Eyed Doll" by Ujo Naguchi who wrote many famous childrens songs.  (Not all of the dolls are blue eyed)
Despite this effort to foster peace and understanding war came in 1941.  During the war the Japanese government in 1943 ordered that all of the American "Blue Eyed Dolls" be destroyed since they were considered "enemy dolls".  As a  result many dolls were destroyed by the teachers at the schools in front of the children in many vicious ways such as stabbing the dolls or ripping them apart and stomping on them.  Also many of these dolls were destroyed by American bombs.
Despite the government order and the bombs,, many Japanese school teachers hid the dolls at the risk of being condemned and punished.  About 300 of the original American Blue Eyed Dolls have survived and been  found.  These dolls today are treasured by Japan's people since these represent the survival of the ideal of international peace, goodwill, and understanding despite the efforts to surpress it by militaristic propaganda during World War ll.  The willingness of many brave Japanese teachers and others to risk their lives highlights the ideal of the "Blue Eyed Dolls" as ambassadors sent to Japan in 1927.
Many schools today have web sites that have pictures and references to these dolls.  These dolls today are considered precious objects to help children understand the meaning of peace.
Below is a picture of nine of the dolls that have survived in one school district that originally had 349.

Photos of the 9 Blue-eyed Dolls of Aichi Prefecture

Starting in 1996 with only two Japanese schools with web pages about the dolls, it increased to 35 by the year 2000.   As the internet grows and its use by schools increases so do the "Blue Eyed Doll" pages.
American and Japanese children still receive dolls from their overseas friends.  These dolls delight the children and give them a better understanding of other cultures.  The internet makes it easier to spread this message of goodwill. 

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