who desire peace must write it in the hearts of
children. This is the story of an adventure of dolls
across the seas, the likes of which has not before
adorned the annals of international relations.
And the spirit
of childhood shall show us the way to friendship that
lasts and to peace that shall stay.
from Dolls of
Friendship by Sidney L. Gulick
Dr. Sidney L. Gulick had a simple idea he called the Doll Plan.
He believed the friendly face of a doll would sow seeds
of peace in the minds of children. Other Americans also
in this simple idea. In 1927, 2.7 million people from
church groups, girl scouts, boy scouts, and entire
communities were compelled to join this cause.
Americans sent 12,739 American dolls to Japan in early
February in 1927, in time to celebrate a Japanese
festival with a 1,000-year-old tradition called Hina
Matsuri-The Doll Festival. Because of the pageantry
of this festival and the Japanese appreciation of dolls
and gifts, the American dolls were treated to great
celebrations at schools with parents and politicians
honoring this international gesture of friendship.
In the same year,
with heart-felt appreciation, led by an international
statesman and long promoter of international relations,
Viscount Eiichi Shibusawa and 2.6 million Japanese
people contributed money
commissioned the best doll makers of the time to make
fifty-eight, 32 inch tall formal display dolls. These
dolls are referred to as “return gratitude dolls” or
torei ningyo. Because there were fewer in number,
the dolls were made over-sized, the size of a 5-year-old
Japanese girl, and each with a unique kimono.
They arrived in the U.S. in late November, in time for
Christmas 1927. All the dolls, American and Japanese,
came with passports costing 1 cent, one-way tickets
costing 99 cents and many letters from both Japanese and
American children with wishes of friendship. In Spokane
we are fortunate to have one of these original 1927
Japanese Doll Ambassadors, Miss Tokushima at the
Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture.
Gulick’s Doll Plan generated contributions from 5.3
million people, and these two visionaries, Gulick in the
U.S. and Shibusawa in Japan, both have connections in
the Northwest. Dr. Gulick traveled through this area
and had relatives in Boise. It was his last wish that
his ashes be placed in three places he loved: Boise,
Idaho; Kobe, Japan; and his birthplace, Springfield,
Shibusawa was no stranger to Spokane either. In 1909 he
led a group of Japanese businessmen on a prestigious
mission which crossed the U.S. in an especially
outfitted “Million Dollar Train.” In early September in
1909, the group stopped in Spokane to tour local
industries. On September 9, 1909 events culminated in a
special dinner at the Hall of Doges, which became part
of the historic Davenport Hotel.
continue. Spokane and Nishinomiya established as
Sister-City bond in 1961. Due to this long friendship,
Mukogawa Women’s University (MWU) in Nishinomiya
invested in a branch campus at historic Fort Wright. In
the fall of 1990 MWU students began coming to Spokane to
study English and American culture. Mukogawa also
created a center and museum for Japanese culture.
former Director of the Japanese Cultural Center,
from Kobe Japan, happened to see an article on the 1927
Japanese Friendship dolls including Spokane’s own Miss
Tokushima in the special 1992 New Year edition of the
Yomuri American, a Japanese newspaper published in New
York. So inspired, Mukogawa’s Friendship Doll Program
began in 1993, and over 1,000 Japanese ambassador dolls
with educational materials have been sent to schools and
organizations in all 50 states and Washington D.C.
One might think
these events as separate endeavors. It is apparent
whether an ambassador doll, or a business envoy, the
past or the future, these events are tied together. We
all share the desire for peace. One person can make a
If you are
interested in learning about the Friendship Doll
Program, please contact the Japanese Cultural Center.
Click here for
Friendship Doll Nomination Form