2006/05/05

Blue Eyed Dolls

This week has been "Golden Week" in Japan, a time when national holidays pile up and most people get a vacation. April 29 is Greenery Day (replaces - wink, wink, nudge, nudge - the birthday of Emperor Showa, the "Peace Emperor" who presided over WWII), May 3 is Constitution Day (thank you Douglas MacArthur), May 4 is Beethoven Day, oops! I mean "Between Day" (because they were too lazy to think up a reason for it), and May 5 is Children's Day (really Boy's Day, but we have to be politcally correct about it nowadays guys).

Many families take to the roads and trains and planes while others try to escape the crowds by flying to Hawaii and other overseas destinations.

We decided to drive up to the northeast corner of Ibaraki prefecture and have a look at several points of interest there as well as the picturesque coast. As it turned out, the day held some disappointments as well as pleasant surprises. I had never been to this area and it had been a long time since K had. The name of the town we were headed for is "Kita-Ibaraki City", population 51,412 (I counted).

The weather was excellent and we decided to get going by 9:00 am. As usual, after washing dishes, walking Momo the Wonder Dog, etc., etc., that turned into 9:40am , but at last, we were on our merry way up the coast. At least for the first fifteen minutes or so. We were not the only people heading north and soon found ourselves in a long line of slow traffic which lasted until the road widened next to the nuclear power institute in Ooarai. That respite was a brief one, and when we got onto the route which would take us most of the way to Kita-Ibaraki City, traffic once again slowed to a crawl. At this point we had spent two hours going a distance we are used to traveling in about 40 minutes. The rest of day would follow the same pattern - bumper to bumper through areas with lots of traffic lights, interspersed with more smoothly flowing traffic.

Fortunately, I had prepared a lunch and packed it in a small cooler. We picked up some radioactive drinks at a convenience store across from the Tokai nuclear power plant, and a little ways down the road when the Geiger counter calmed down, pulled off onto a side road with a nice view of open fields and hills and had lunch.

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I'm flying... Bula Shirt Weather!

As we neared our destination, we stopped to enjoy a view of the coast. The wind was blowing the tops of the breaking waves into mist, something called "ehu kai" in Hawaiian. The air was warm and I was happy to be comfortable wearing my Fijian "Bula" shirt (same idea as a Hawaiian "Aloha" shirt). A weathered islet stood stubbornly against the sea. I liked the symbolism in that and claimed it for my nation - "Pandabonia". This is not a new idea for me. In college, a friend and I laid claim to an island (one truly unowned) to start a new nation and ended up involved in some international intrigue involving Princess Grace of Monaco, Abu Dhabi, Israel, France, the FBI, and Interpol. It was quite an education.

Japan already has island disputes with Russia, South Korea, and China. Now they have another. But Pandabonia is a reasonable and peaceful nation and is open to negotiation for a price. (I hope you know I'm pulling your leg - somewhat).

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New Pandabonia Island

Refreshed by our stop at the beach, and territorial conquest, we rolled into Kita-Ibaraki City. K noticed a sign and pulled into a small parking area in front of a house. It was the best surprise of the day for us - the birth home of Ujo Noguchi (1882-1945) a famous poet, song lyricist, and author of many children's nursery rhymes.

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Ujo Noguchi's birth home.

The house, where Noguchi family members still reside, is 140 years old. It has been turned in part into a museum. Photos, personal items, his wife's wedding clothes, calendars, and explanations of his life and work are on display. Many phonograph records, cards, and copies of magazines containing his work are also there to see. Noguchi and other poets cooperated in a publication called "Golden Ship" and later "Golden Star" which were beautifully illustrated. Many of his poems and songs were put to music and are still popular today.

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Ujo Noguchi


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Cover of an issue of "Golden Star" featuring the song "Akai kutsu" or "Red Shoes"

The wedding sashes or obi of Noguchi's wife are on display and in one room you can see what items were used and worn by a bride of those times.

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Early 20th century wedding attire.

In 1921, Noguchi wrote a poem called "Blue Eyed Doll". It became very popular with little girls all over Japan. An English translation follows:

A blue-eyed doll,
Made of celluloid,
Was born in America.
When she arrived at a harbor in Japan,
She had many tears in her eyes.
I do not understand the language.
If I get lost, what should I do?
Warm-hearted Japanese girls,
Please be my friends and play with me.
Please be my friends and play with me.

In 1926 it was set to music by Nagayo Motoori. To hear the tune, click below.



At this same time, unbeknownst to Noguchi, an American, Dr. Sidney Gulick was putting together a project involving dolls. Dr. Gulick had been a missionary, and taught Math, Science, and Religion at universities in Kyoto and had lived in Japan for twenty-five years before his health forced him to return to the United States in 1913. He loved Japan and was troubled by the worsening relations between the two countries.

Utilizing a Christian church group, he organized an international exchange of dolls between Japan and USA as a way to teach children the values of friendship, cooperation and peace between nations. In 1927, people around the USA donated 12,739 dolls which were sent from the USA to Japan in time for the Hina Matsuri (doll festival).

The dolls were distributed to kindergartens throughout the country and were received with great enthusiasm. In return, money was collected from Japanese children to pay for 58 elaborate handmade Japanese dolls that were sent to the USA in November of that year, and distributed to each state.

Because of the popularity of Noguchi's poem and song in Japan, the American dolls were referred to as "blue eyed dolls", even though many of them did not in fact have blue eyes.

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Blue eyed doll on display at Ujo Noguchi's home.

In spite of such efforts, relations between the countries deteriorated to the point of war as we all know. Dr. Gulick was viewed as an enemy collaborator by his fellow Americans. In Japan, the government wanted the dolls to be destroyed as they represented their enemy, but many people, mostly teachers, risked severe punishment and hid them away. There are only about 300 of the dolls still in existence. Nearly forgotten after the war, a television special about them in the early 1970's brought them out of hiding. Most of the Japanese dolls in the USA have been recovered. Further exchanges have taken place with the dolls and people are learning of the story all over again. It is a poignant fact that both Ujo Noguchi and Dr. Gulick died in the year 1945, without seeing relations between Japan and America repaired.

We left the house and passed by the larger musuem dedicated to Ujo Noguchi. Our time was precious and having seen so much in the house of his youth, the bigger museum with mostly written exhibits would have to wait. There was much more to see and absorb in Kita-Ibaraki.

To see and hear more of Ujo Noguchi's songs, please visit this beautifully done web site: Children's Songs.

to be continued....

13 comments:

K said...

The birth house of Ujo Noguchi was a quite surprise. Probably it is better than Ujo museum. It had a thatched roof before when the sightseeing bus stopped and passed there last - 20 years ago.

And the story about the blue-eyed dolls and the song is very interesting.

j-apricot said...

Well, actually I've read about the American dolls and some of their fates.

peceliandwendy said...

What a wonderful parable is your detailed story of the dolls. Please, please, can I use it in the Mother's Day service next week? I'm sure I can get some theological meaning from it!!! I'm taking part, so will ask them if I can do the children's story.
Thanks for the excellent pictures and your selection of stories to tell. It is a pleasure to read such stories; a balance to all the gripe, tripe, and harping of our TV news emphasising hatred, fear, separation.
Wendy

Pandabonium said...

Thank you very much Wendy. That would be a nice story for a church service. Addition information may be read here:
Convergence 2006, here 1927 Doll Exchange Dr. Sidney L. Gulick, and at Japanese Cultural Center

I am so happy that you like my blog and enjoyed this post. I was very touched by the story myself and fascinated by the coincidences and connections (there are even more than I included).

Lrong said...

You are very 'brave' to go driving during the GW holidays... I would not even contemplate such a thing, as I can't stand traffic jams...

Pandabonium said...

Lrong, I think your use of the word 'brave' translates to 'baka na' in Japanese. hehehe

Well, Ibaraki is less densely populated, but it was still a bit crazy.

Yesterday we went north again - on different roads- with much better results. I'll post about that later.

Personal cars are lousy mode of transportation and will probably be laughed at or read about with puzzlement by people in the next century.

agus said...

I love the story behind the doll. Makes me go awww...

Robin said...

What a wonderful tale .. and what a fantastic way to build friendship.

But war is the ultimate weapon.. It destroys lifes, family, friendship and in the case, the doll too!

Happysurfer said...

Dear Pandabonium, a very beautiful post indeed. Thank you.

Traffic jams are common here too especially during the holidays. I remember spending two hours on a stretch which normally only takes half an hour!

Pandabonium said...

Thanks Happy. I need to get busy and finish the post about the rest of the day and then the trip two days later.

I hate traffic jams too. I kept seeing the trains go by and would point out to K that they didn't seem to be having that problem. ;^)

Robin said...

By just reading the title and your first pics, I thought u are the "blue eye doll".. hehe

PinkPanther said...

Learnt a very good DOLL story about Japan and USA, so meaningful poem.

I have a similar doll (looks like the one you posted in the picture), bought by me Grandpa from Hawaii when I was young.

Pandabonium said...

Robin, ha! Nope, my eyes are "hazel".

Pinkpanther, glad you enjoyed the story. Nothing like having someone bring you a present from far away - especially as a child.