INHM: The Doll who Crossed the Sea
In 1927, thousands of American children sent dolls to Japan as messengers of friendship, trying to ease growing political strains between the two countries. In return, Japanese schoolgirls shipped 58 exquisitely dressed porcelain dolls – one for each American state, plus a handful of big cities. These large Japanese dolls arrived with passports in hand and accompanied by exquisite clothing, furnishings and tea sets. They toured the United States together, and eventually Washington state’s doll, Miss Tokushima, found a permanent home at the museum in Spokane.
Many of the American and Japanese friendship dolls disappeared or were destroyed when the two countries opposed each other during World War II. But the survivors continue to play a meaningful diplomatic role. Miss Tokushima returned to Japan as recently as 2011 for an exhibit that reunited dolls from both sides of the ocean. She returned with special gifts - a traditional folding fan and a purse - from her original manufacturer and her tour host museum are now tucked into the obi that wraps her waist. Miss Tokushima plays local ambassador, too, visiting Spokane’s Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute for the annual Hina Matsuri - Girls’ Day.
The Inland Northwest History Moment is a collaboration of Spokane Public Radio and the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (MAC), in celebration of 100 Stories, the museum’s centennial exhibition. www.northwestmuseum.org