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A World of Dolls

Issue 3

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A Friendship Doll
Photo:
Yukiko Hattori

Yes, they were perfect as messengers; only these messengers were about 40 centimeters tall!

Messengers of Friendship

Yukiko Hattori from Japan

In 1927, as many as 12,000 young Messengers of Friendship arrived in Japan after many weeks' voyage from the U.S.A. In spite of the long and hard journey, they were bravely keeping their friendly smiles on their lovely faces, which instantly fascinated Japanese children.

Each of the young Americans had a special passport, visa, ticket, a small trunk with some clothes inside and a number of nice letters from the children in her hometown. Yes, they were perfect as messengers; only these messengers were about 40 centimeters tall!

Have you ever heard about these Friendship Dolls? When Dr. Gulick, an American missionary who had lived in Japan for twenty years, observed many Japanese farmhands suffering from discrimination in California, he came up with the idea of sending dolls to Japan to create and preserve good relationships between the children of the U.S.A.and Japan.

To his surprise, his idea was eagerly supported by more than 2,600,000 people all over the U.S.A. They donated and collected money to buy dolls; then made tiny clothes to dress them and wrote heart-warming letters to Japanese children to send with the dolls.

The program was a great success and it created better relationships between the children of the two countries. When World War II started years later, however, the authorities in Japan began seeing the dolls as something related to the enemy and ordered children to burn them. This seemed the sad end of the Friendship Dolls in which so many good-willed people had been involved.

Fortunately, not all people lost their common sense, even in wartime. Some tried to save the dolls' lives by hiding them somewhere, taking a great risk. About 200 dolls out of 12,000 survived the war in this way.

Now those dolls are well taken care of by children in various kindergartens and elementary schools where they are living peacefully. Though they are already 70 years old, you will see their friendly smiles have not changed at all. 

More about Yukiko's dolls:
Memories of Dolls | Finding My Dream Doll | Doll Slide Show

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