A special Japanese doll belonging to the South Dakota State Historical Society will be on display in the gallery of the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre through December.
Miss Tottori is a Japanese Friendship Doll whose roots date to the 1920s when Dr. Sidney Gulick, a missionary who had served in Japan more than 25 years, formed the Committee on World Friendship among Children in 1926. Their first project was sending American dolls to Japan for “Hina Matsuri,” the Japanese Doll Festival. Over 12,700 “blue-eyed” dolls from 48 states went overseas as a gift from the children of the United States.
Japan returned the friendship gesture by sending 58 “Torei Ningyo” or Dolls of Gratitude to the United States in November 1927. Fifty-eight dolls were displayed in various shows before making their way to permanent homes in then-all 48 states and 10 cities. Some of the dolls were mislabeled or poorly identified between shows, and some accessories were mixed between dolls.
It has been 88 years since the United States and Japan exchanged dolls of peace and friendship. The age of 88 is celebrated according to custom in Japan with the “Beiju” – which may involve wearing a simple sleeveless coat and/or a yellow cap.
The Ehime Action Group in Japan is sponsoring a project to have “peace caps” placed on all the surviving Japanese Friendship Dolls in the United States and on all the American “blue-eyed” dolls in Japan. South Dakota’s Miss Tottori is proudly participating in the project.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, launched the United States and Japan into war and also ended the Friendship Doll program. The Japanese ordered the destruction of the American “blue-eyed” dolls, but 335 survived. In the United States, the Japanese dolls went into storage and were lost. Only 45 of the original dolls have been located. Of the dolls that were found, historians and experts have determined that 25 dolls were misidentified. Only five dolls are still with their original accessories.
Miss Tottori is one of the 25 misidentified Friendship Dolls. She was recently identified as Miss Miyagi by Japanese doll scholar Alan Scott Pate. Miss Miyagi was originally intended for Kansas but made its way to South Dakota. Historical misidentifications are considered permanent, so South Dakota’s Miss Tottori is now indeed Miss Tottori for all time.
Now through Dec. 23, the museum will be open extra hours for visitors to see Miss Tottori. Museum hours are 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-4:30 on Sundays. There is a small admission fee. The Cultural Heritage Center is closed Christmas and New Year’s days.