A Historical Announcement

Several months ago, we were approached by a private collector with an offer to acquire a Japanese Friendship Doll—Miss Gunma. Morikami was poised to take advantage of this unique opportunity that may have never presented itself again. These dolls are a significant but often forgotten piece of the history between the United States and Japan in the years preceding World War II—when the countries were experiencing strained relations due to the threats of polarizing nationalism. The Friendship Dolls served as goodwill ambassadors between the two superpowers in this time of rising tensions. Initially, as a gift to the children of Japan, America sent 12,000 manufactured Blue-eyed Dolls overseas. Unexpectedly, Japan reciprocated with a gift of 58 painstakingly hand-crafted, exquisite “Dolls of Gratitude,” or Tōrei Ningyō.

Miss Mie pictured alongside several Blue-Eyed Dolls. Source: University of Nebraska State Museum

Over the course of the past nine decades, many of the dolls have not fared well, with some having gone missing, and several of these delicate treasures having fallen victim to the effects of harsh climates, lack of care, or even complete destruction.

Out of all of the extant Friendship Dolls, no other have found homes in a Japanese or Japanese-affiliated institution. By acquiring Miss Gunma, we can not only secure her future and therefore help save a piece of history, but we can also allow her to continue the original mission of the Friendship Dolls in a time of renewed uncertainty in our own nation. Keeping Miss Gunma at Morikami, rather than in a private collection, allows the public to appreciate the importance of goodwill between nations and gives us a reminder to find the beauty in our differences.

We made it our mission in the past year to acquire Miss Gunma, and today, we are proud to officially announce that—thanks in large part to board trustee, CiCi Zahringer, who hosted an exclusive luncheon to raise more than half the funds—Miss Gunma will soon be a permanent resident of our collection!

Please, stay tuned in the coming months for details on her display to the public.


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