Learn about a unique moment in US history and the fine art of Japanese doll-making through this exhibition showcasing three ichimatsu Friendship Dolls. In the late 1920s, during a time of escalating tensions between the US and Japan, two friends—Japanese business leader Eiichi Shibusawa and American educator Sidney Gulick—developed a program for children in each country to exchange dolls as a gesture of friendship and cultural understanding.
The American children sent more than 12,000 dolls, mass-produced but carefully customized for the program down to passports and train tickets, to their Japanese counterparts, who responded with 58 ichimatsu Friendship Dolls.
Meticulously crafted by master artists, the Friendship Dolls were made to be ambassadors, each one as unique as the prefecture they represented. Alongside the three on display are two examples of boy ichimatsu—Akita Sugi-o, made in the 1930s and now in the collection of the Detroit Children’s Museum, and Tomoki, a 2018 doll by Kokan Fujimuru commissioned for the DIA puppetry collection.
This exhibition is made possible with support from the Japanese Business Society of Detroit Foundation and the Audley M. Grossman Puppetry Fund
photo credit: Miss Osaka (1927) by Hirata Goyo II Japanese, 1903–81. Collection of the Ohio History Connection, Columbus