Japanese Friendship Dolls: 1927 Ambassador Doll Exchange Program Between Japan and the United States

by DerdriuMarriner

Dr. Sidney Gulick began the exchange of friendship dolls between Japan and the United States. The toy-sized U.S. doll is blue-eyed while the Japanese doll is child-sized.

Alan Scott Pate

Alan Scott Pate (born 1963) can be considered a world authority on ningyō (antique Japanese dolls). His knowledge comes from extensive dealing in and research on the dolls. He makes his experience and expertise available on a worldwide basis through:
• Creating museum exhibitions;
• Lecturing;
• Writing.

Additionally, Alan specializes in the Japanese Friendship Doll (友情人形, jūjō ningyō) Project, which also is described as involving:
• American blue-eyed dolls (青い目の人形, aoi me no ningyō);
• Japanese ambassador dolls.

Sidney Gulick's birthplace:  map of Ebon Atoll with place names of 14 of Ebon's 22 islands
Sidney Gulick's birthplace: map of Ebon Atoll with place names of 14 of Ebon's 22 islands

Reverend Sidney Lewis Gulick


The Reverend Sidney Lewis Gulick (April 10, 1860-December 20, 1945) ideated the doll exchange program. The Reverend was born in Ebon Atoll, Marshall Islands to Congregational Church missionary parents Luther Halsey Gulick Sr. (June 10, 1828-April 8, 1891) and Louisa Mitchell Lewis Gulick (1830-1893). But he was sent to the United States of America for his education and a series of graduations from:

  • Oakland High School, 1879;
  • Dartmouth College, A.B., 1883; A.M., 1886; D.D. 1903;
  • Yale University, D.D.;
  • Oberlin College, D.D.


Channel into Ebon Atoll, Sidney Gulick's birthplace; southernmost point of Pacific Ocean's Marshall Islands
Channel into Ebon Atoll, Sidney Gulick's birthplace; southernmost point of Pacific Ocean's Marshall Islands


The Reverend first was assigned as supply minister to Brooklyn’s Willoughby Avenue Mission after his ordination in 1886. He was assigned to missionary duty in the archipelago following his marriage of November 7, 1887 to Clara May Fisher (1860?-1941). Specifically, he worked for 25 years at the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions after his relocation of Japan in 1888.

During his years in Japan, the Reverend became fluent in Japanese. He developed several concurrent career paths. For example, he juggled missionary work with:

  • Instructing students at Japan’s schools and universities in English, religion and science;
  • Lecturing at Kyoto Imperial University;
  • Teaching theology at Doshisha University in Kyoto;
  • Writing books in Japanese.

His involvement with Japanese culture continued after his return to the United States in 1913. In the 1920s, the Reverend was distressed over worsening interactions between the Land of the Rising Sun and the Home of the Free and the Brave. He therefore was inspired to form the Committee on World Friendship Among Children. The committee was formed specifically to improve and promote non-governmental interactions of goodwill and mutual understanding between Japan and the United States.


Empress Kōjun (March 6,1903–June 16, 2000) with princesses and tiered dolls during Japan's annual Doll Festival, c1940
Empress Kōjun (March 6,1903–June 16, 2000) with princesses and tiered dolls during Japan's annual Doll Festival, c1940

12,739 Blue-eyed Ambassador Dolls


The Committee managed to inspire children throughout the United States to get together a collection of 12,739 blue-eyed dolls for their peers in Japan. Each doll was accompanied by a handwritten letter of friendship. The “doll messengers of goodwill” were sent to the archipelago in March 1927 ("Friendship Dolls," Taubman Gallery Guide, page 4).

The blue-eyed dolls arrived in time for Hinamatsuri (雛祭り, Hinamatsuri), Japan’s beloved yearly doll festival. Each doll was escorted from the ship by a kimono-clad Japanese girl. An audience was organized for 49 of the dolls with Japan’s Emperor Hirohito (April 29, 1901-January 7, 1989), whose reign began shortly before, on December 25, 1926. The 49 dolls were housed in a custom-made, elaborate dollhouse which became one of the displays at Tokyo’s imperial museum.

The other 11,690 dolls became participants in the archipelago’s festival of the dolls. The participation involved relocation outside Tokyo. The participating dolls were portioned among the archipelago’s kindergarten and elementary school populations.


March 3rd Doll Festival (Hinamatsuri): girl with Emperor doll looks at small landscape of Mukōjima (northeast Tokyo) along east bank of Sumida River, famous for cherry (Sakura) trees planted by Shōgun Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684-1751)

woodcut by Utagawa Kunikazu (Osaka printmaker active circa 1849-1867)
woodcut by Utagawa Kunikazu (Osaka printmaker active circa 1849-1867)

"The Blue Eyed Doll" by Ujo Noguchi (1882-1945): nursery rhyme beloved by Japanese children

undated portrait of Eiichi Shibusawa, 1st Viscount Shibusawa: organizer of gift of 58 Japanese ambassador dolls
undated portrait of Eiichi Shibusawa,...

58 Japanese Ambassador Dolls


The gift of the dolls inspired a similar gift from the Japanese, but in far fewer numbers. The gift of Japanese dolls was organized by Viscount Shibusawa Eiichi (March 16, 1840 - November 11, 1931), founder of: 

  • First National Bank;
  • First women's university;
  • Imperial Hotel;
  • Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry;
  • Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Fifty-one of the Viscount's dolls were custom-made by Tokyo's Yoshitoku Doll Company; their creations represented forty-seven prefectures and four colonies (Korea, Manchuria, Sakhalin, Taiwan). Kyoto's Ohki Heizo (Maruhei) Doll Company was concerned with six city dolls (Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo, Yokohama) and one imperial household figure. 


Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation


The Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation is a private foundation started as a study group of Shibusawa Eiichi’s protégés more than 120 years ago. It is based in  Asukayama Park in Oji, Tokyo, on the site of the former Shibusawa residence.


Faces of Ichimatsu ningyō are reminiscent of their namesake, Kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu (1722-1762); tôrei-ningyô (Friendship Dolls) comprise a special group of Ichimatsu ningyō.
Ichimatsu ningyō: traditional dress-up dolls originating in mid-Edo period (18th century)
Ichimatsu ningyō: traditional dress-up dolls originating in mid-Edo period (18th century)


Each Japanese doll had unique facial features. At between 32 and 33 inches (81.28 and 83.82 centimeters), each stood the height of a small child. Each was made of:

  • Glass, for eyes;
  • Human hair, for coiffure;
  • Wood bodies covered by multilayered skin of gofun (powdered shells).

Each included a squeaking mechanism which was actuated by pressing the ribs.

Each was supplied with individual passports and ship tickets as well as lacquer trunks containing:

  • Bracelets;
  • Calling cards;
  • Change purse;
  • Coins;
  • Folding fans;
  • Parasols;
  • Tea sets.

Each wore tabi (socks) under sandals made of cloth, felt, lacquer, metal, rubber and wood. Each also wore underwear under kimonos of fine brocaded, embroidered, printed silk with elaborately tied obi.


Miss Yokohama-shi, Denver Doll Museum
Miss Yokohama-shi, Denver Doll Museum

Dolls With Birthplaces


The Japanese dolls numbered just 58. Each doll was assigned a general address. The places that were designated as points of origin were the following:

  • The imperial household;
  • The six main cities;
  • The 47 domestic prefectures;
  • The 4 overseas territorial holdings.

Each was assigned a U.S. residence.


Doll's name and US destination/residence

Miss Aichi

  • Nashville TN; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Akita              

  • Detroit Children's Museum

Miss Aomori

  • private collection:  Elaine Christiansen, Bristol County, southeastern MA

Miss Chiba

  • Frank Miller / Glenwood Mission Inn, Riverside CA; whereabouts now unknown but possibly private collection of Frank Miller's descendants

Miss Chosen (Korea)

  • The New Children's Museum, West Hartford CT

Miss Dai Nippon (Japan)

  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Anthropology Dept, Washington DC

Miss Ehime

  • Gulfport MS (destroyed by Hurricane Camille; replaced in 1988, with value of $20,000 for new doll and her household accessories; replacement destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005)

Miss Fukui

  • Salt Lake City UT; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Fukuoka

  • Jordan Schitzer Museum of Art, Eugene OR

Miss Fukushima

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TX; now at Alan Scott Pate Antique Japanese Dolls, St. Ignatius MT

Miss Gifu

  • Cleveland Museum of Art, OH

Miss Gunma

  • sent to Brooklyn; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Hiroshima

  • Baltimore Museum of Art, MD

Miss Hokkaido

  • Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science, Davenport IA

Miss Hyogo (actually Miss Mie)

  • St. Joseph Museum, MO

Miss Ibaraki (Tsukuba Kasumi)

  • Milwaukee Public Museum, WI

Miss Ishikawa

  • Montana Historical Society, Helena

Miss Iwate

  • Birmingham Public Library, AL

Miss Kagawa

  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh

Miss Kagoshima

  • Arizona Museum, Phoenix (now Arizona Science Center, Phoenix)

Miss Kanagawa

  • Eugene OR; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Kanto-shu (Liadong Peninsula, Kwantung Leased Territory, Inner Manchuria)

  • Manchester NH; now:  Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art, Bellevue WA

Miss Karafuto

  • Wilmington DE

Miss Kobe-shi

  • Stamford CT; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Kochi

  • Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh PA

Miss Kumamoto

  • New Orleans LA; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Kyoto-fu

  • Boston Children's Museum, MA

Miss Kyoto-shi

  • Arkansas Museum of Discovery, Little Rock



Doll's Name and US destination/residence

Miss Mie (doll's actual name is unknown; actual Miss Mie resides as Miss Hyogo in St. Joseph MO

  • University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln

Miss Miyagi

  • Mulvane Art Museum, Topeka KS; now in private collection

Miss Miyazaki

  • Minneapolis MN; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Nagano

  • Roger Williams Park Museum, Providence RI; now at Delaware Historical Society, Wilmington

Miss Nagasaki

  • Rochester Museum and Science Center, NY

Miss Nagoya-shi

  • Atlanta History Center, GA

Miss Nara

  • Idaho State Historical Museum, Boise

Miss Niigata

  • whereabouts now unknown

Miss Oita

  • Springfield Science Museum, MA

Miss Okayama

  • Fraternal Order of Masons, Fargo ND; now at North Dakota State University, Fargo

Miss Okinawa

  • Cincinnati Art Museum, OH

Miss Osaka-fu

  • Newark NJ; now at Ohio Historical Society, Columbus

Miss Osaka-shi

  • Newark Museum, NJ

Miss Saga

  • Philadelphia PA; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Saitama

  • Charleston Museum, SC

Miss Shiga

  • Miami FL; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Shimane

  • Children's Museum of Indianapolis IN

Miss Shizuoka

  • Kansas City Museum, MO

Miss Taiwan

  • Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, CA

Miss Tochigi

  • West Virginia State Museum, Charleston; whereabouts now unkown

Miss Tokushima

  • Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane

Miss Tokyo-fu

  • Richmond VA; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Tokyo-shi

  • New York City NY; whereabouts now unknown

Miss Tottori

  • Museum of South Dakota State Historical Society, Pierre

Miss Toyama

  • Speed Art Museum, Louisville KY

Miss Wakayama

  • Nevada Historical Society, Reno

Miss Yamagata

  • Maine State Museum, Augusta

Miss Yamaguchi

  • Chicago IL; now at Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe NM

Miss Yamanashi

  • Wyoming State Museum, Cheyenne

Miss Yokohama-shi

  • Denver Public Library, CO; now at Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys


Miss Shimane friendship ambassador doll, Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Miss Shimane friendship ambassador doll, Children's Museum of Indianapolis


The Japanese dolls arrived in November 1927 at San Francisco, California. One group received --
compliments of the rail company -- first class tickets to individual seats from California to Washington, D.C. With stops in Denver and Chicago, the dolls were transported to Washington, D.C., for a formal reception at Japanese Ambassador Tsuneo Matsudaira's (April 17, 1877 - November 14, 1949) residence.

The other group followed a sea route. They left California and passed through the Panama Canal. They landed in New York City. There, they were reunited with the train-traveling dolls.

All of the dolls participated in a formal reception and window display at Lord & Taylor's. Afterwards, Miss Japan relocated to the Smithsonian Institute. The remaining dolls were divided into six U.S. tour groups for the first half of 1928. In the summer of 1928, the dolls were relocated to permanent locations.


back view of Miss Shimane, Children's Museum of Indianapolis
back view of Miss Shimane, Children's Museum of Indianapolis

The Dolls during World War II


With World War II, the Japanese dolls retired from public display to storage in the United States. Only Miss Kagawa was left on display, in Raleigh, North Carolina. But a note of apology was placed on her back since her front was turned away from view.

In Japan, the blue-eyed dolls were deemed treasonous possessions. They were described as “friendship dolls with a mask” (Taubman, page 10). They therefore were to be surrendered to imperial authorities for destruction.

In Japan, about 360 dolls are known to have survived the war even though sheltering them was punishable by death. In the United States, the whereabouts of two dolls are suspected: one out to sea with Hurricane Katrina, and another with Frank Miller's descendants. Thirteen dolls cannot be accounted for. What is surprising is their disappearance from such prestigious institutions as:

  • Brooklyn Museum;
  • New York Museum of Natural History;
  • Philadelphia Museum.


Miss Kagawa was the only Friendship Doll to remain on display in the U.S. throughout World War II.
Miss Kagawa at North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh
Miss Kagawa at North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh

Professor Sidney Lewis Gulick III


A revival of interest in the blue-eyed and Japanese dolls dates to the last two decades of the twentieth century. Dr. Gulick’s grandson, Denny Gulick (Sidney Lewis Gulick III), is a Mathematics Professor specializing in calculus, chaos and fractals at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Gulick and his wife Frances organize a yearly sending of friendship dolls to Japanese schoolchildren.


Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, southwestern Virginia
Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, southwestern Virginia

Exhibitions, such as the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia, March 2- June 9, 2012


Interest encourages exhibitions and investigations and vice versa. One such exhibition is that held at the  Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia from March 2 through June 9, 2012. The Taubman Museum’s exhibition presented three blue-eyed dolls:

  • Miss Virginia, one of 19 survivors of 141 dolls for Gunma Prefecture. She makes her permanent home in Joto Elementary School, Maebashi.
  • Grace, one of nine survivors of 193 dolls for Mie Prefecture. Her twin resides in Ueda City Junior High School, Nagano Prefecture. Both sisters are the creations of New York’s Averill Company. Officially, Grace is called Madame Hendren Doll #216. Her eyes still open and close. She still says “Mama” when hugged because of a still-functioning noisemaker in her back.
  • Norman, one of the rare boy dolls sent to the archipelago. He lives in Toyo Elementary School in Aichi Prefecture, where 8 other dolls survive.

It also showcased two Japanese dolls:

  • Miss Karafuto/Nagano, the creation of doll artist Tokukyu. She bears a nadeshiko (ナデシコ, Dianthus superbus subsp. longicalycinus [Maxim.] Kitam = large, frilled carnation) as a personal crest. She actually is called Miss Nagano. The hyphenated name reflects mistaken doll identities during the 1928 tour. She lives in the Delaware Historical Society in Wilmington. Her lacquer accompaniments reside in Roger Williams Park Museum in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • Miss Osaka-shi, the creation of Tokyo artist Takizawa Koryusai II. She appears with her little brother. But she is not the original Miss Osaka, the creation of Kyoto artist Mensho XII. No one knows the whereabouts of the original or the reason for the substitution of the one by the other.

In the realm of investigations, Alan Scott Pate will be releasing a book on the life and times of the Japanese Friendship Dolls (Taubman, page 13).

Each fresh detail that emerges from research into these lovingly crafted gifts from the children of Japan to the children of the United States inspires admiration for the unfoldment of Sidney Gulick's Doll Plan. His premise was based on his faith in the power of children to foster harmony and rapport, across cultures and across oceans, through their love for the world's dolls. Children's toys often are teaching tools, and dolls, symbols of childhood cherished worldwide, serve as perfect ambassadors of good will, as gifts from hope-filled, untarnished hearts. As eight-year-old Masako Matsumoto expressed in her Farewell Message to the Japanese Dolls on November 4, 1927:

"Our dear messengers, when you get to that land, please tell our real warm hearts to the American friends, and also tell them that we are thankful to have those American dolls and that they are having a nice time since they came."(Sidney Gulick, Dolls of Friendship)


Yokohama Doll Museum: Blossom and other American blue-eyed dolls reside permanently here.
Yokohama Doll Museum: Blossom and other American blue-eyed dolls reside permanently here.

Miss Tokushima Returns to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane

Miss Tokushima - Spokesman.com - March 4, 2011


Video: The staff of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture unpacked a returned exhibit March 2, 2011, with great affection. Miss Tokushima, had just toured Japan, impressing museum goers and schoolchildren with her story.


Pittsburgh's Miss Kochi
Pittsburgh's Miss Kochi



This hub is dedicated to the memory of Sidney Gulick and of Eiichi Shibusawa in appreciation of their commitment to the power of children to set timeless examples of mutual understanding and rapport through their love for the world's dolls.


Two little girls share a love of dolls: Mitsu Takami (left) and Mary Calvert (right)

cover illustration of Sidney Gulick's "Dolls of Friendship" (1927)
cover illustration of Sidney Gulick's "Dolls of Friendship" (1927)



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet;
  • Alan Scott Pate for his superb research;
  • Bill Gordon for his excellent web site on the 1927 Doll Exchange;
  • Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, southwestern Virginia, for memorable exhibits in general and for "Friendship Dolls: Japan and America in the 1920s" in particular;
  • Eiko Takeda for her research and writings on American Blue-Eyed Dolls and Japanese Friendship Dolls, including Ningyoutachi no Kakehashi ("Bridge of Dolls"), published by Shogakukan Bunko in 1998.




Children of many lands who are residents of Washington DC: Miyo, 3-year-old daughter of Mr. and Madam Keinosuke Fujii, Secretary of Embassy of Japan

January 3, 1920 image by National Photo Company
January 3, 1920 image by National Photo Company

Sources Consulted


"Friendship Dolls: Japan and America in the 1920s." Gallery Guide. Roanoke, Virginia: Taubman Museum of Art, March 2 to June 9, 2012.

Gulick, Sidney L. (Lewis). Adventuring in Brotherhood: Among Orientals in America. New York: American Missionary Association, [1925?].

  • Available via Harvard University Library Open Collections Program at: http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/5078898

Gulick, Sidney L. (Lewis). Dolls of Friendship. 1st ed. New York: Friendship Press, 1929.

Gulick, Sidney L. (Lewis). Dolls of Friendship. 2nd ed. Pittsburgh: Friendship Ambassadors Press, 1997.

"Ichimatsu Dolls." Wafuku: The Japanese Kimono Comes West. June 16, 2012.

  • Available via WordPress at:  http://wafuku.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/ichimatsu-dolls/

Kohiyama, Rui. "To Clear up a Cloud Hanging on the Pacific Ocean: The 1927 Japan-U.S. Doll Exchange." The Japanese Journal of American Studies, No. 16 (2005): 55-80.

  • Available at: http://sv121.wadax.ne.jp/~jaas-gr-jp/jjas/PDF/2005/No.16-055.pdf

Kubary, J. (Johann). "Die Ebongruppe im Marshall's Archipel." Journal des Museum Godeffroy: Geographische, ethnographische und naturwissenschaftliche Mittheilungun, Erster Band, Heft I: 32-47. Hamburg: L. Friederichsen & Co., 1873.

  • Available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/109785

Larson, Kirby. The Friendship Doll. New York:  Delacorte Press, 2011.

Larson, Kirby. "Lovely Coincidences." Kirby's Lane: A Place for Readers and Writers. Thursday, June 2, 2011. Accessed October 14, 2013.

  • Available at:  http://kirbyslane.blogspot.com/2011/06/lovely-coincidences.html

Pate, Alan Scott. Japanese Dolls: the fascinating world of ningyō. Tokyo, Japan & Rutland, Vermont & Singapore: Tuttle Publishing, 2008.

Pate, Alan Scott. Ningyō: The Art of the Japanese Doll. Tokyo, Japan & Rutland, Vermont & Singapore: Tuttle Publishing, 2004.

Peterson, Patrick. "Japanese children renew friendship with a lost doll." Rome News-Tribune, Thursday, August 18, 1988: 4-B.

  • Available via Google Newspapers at: http://news.google.com/newspapers?
  • nid=348&dat=19880818&id=Xm0wAAAAIBAJ&sjid=HzYDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4426,4
  • 254986

Pool, Bob. "Lost Dolls Tell Story of One Man's Bridge Across Cultural Gap : 'Why Riverside? Why did Mr. Miller get them? Those were the big questions.'" Los Angeles Times, June 11, 1994.

  • Available via Los Angeles Times at: http://articles.latimes.com/1994-06-11/local/me-2943_1_frank-miller

Whyel, Rosalie. "Another important anniversary." Small Wonders, Vol. XVI, No. 3 (Summer 2007): 2,3,5.

  • Available via Doll Art at: http://www.dollart.com/Newsletters/2007Summer.pdf


popularity of Japanese dolls as desirable presents
"Christmas morning," c1896 photographic print on cabinet card by Kaufmann & Strauss Co.
"Christmas morning," c1896 photographic print on cabinet card by Kaufmann & Strauss Co.
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo by Alan Scott Pate

For the art enthusiast, the doll collector, as well as the casual reader, the world of Japanese dolls is a fascinating one. Alan Scott Pate, leading American expert on Japanese dolls, answers questions surrounding collecting these amazing artifacts.
Japanese doll-themed books

The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson

Japanese doll-themed books

Japan Watercolor Map: black t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

Japan Watercolor Map
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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/02/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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