A Doll with Blue Eyes

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New Horizon English Course 3 (Showa 59)

On the morning of May 21, 1927, all the students of Kitamura Chuo Elementary School in Hokkaido were in the auditorium. On the stage were the flags of Japan and the United States.
The principal came in with a doll and handed it to a third grade girl student. It was the first American doll the students ever saw.
Then the principal read the letter that was carried by the American doll. "Her name is Leila, and she's from Cleveland. Please take care of her. She'll obey all the laws and customs of your country." After that, they stood up and sang "A Doll with Blue Eyes."

Kitamura Chuo Elementary School was not the only one that received an American doll. In 1926, the Committee on World Friendship Among Children in New York heard of Japan's Hinamatsuri. They got interested in the custom, and made a plan to send American dolls to Japan. Mothers and daughters in many cities made caps, dresses and shoes for the dolls. Each doll was given a name, and carried with her a letter to Japanese children.

About 12,000 dolls were sent to elementary schools and kindergartens in Japan. Leila was one of them.
How delighted the boys and girls were when they saw Leila! She had blue eyes and red hair, and wore a Western dress and small shoes. In those days most Japanese children wore kimono and zori or geta.
The doll could open and close her eyes. She even cried "Mama!" She was just like a real American girl.

In 1941, war broke out between Japan and the United States. As the war went on, teachers often got together and talked about what to do with the American dolls. One teacher said, "We're fighting against America. We must throw away the dolls at once." Another teacher said, "We must not forget they were sent by our enemy. Let's burn them."
The poor American dolls! Some were thrown into rivers, some were burned and some were torn to pieces. Soon people forgot all about the dolls with blue eyes.

In 1966, twenty-one years after the end of the war, an old doll with blue eyes was found in a closet at Azuma Elementary School in Gunma. It was Mary-chan, one of the American dolls sent in 1927. She was saved by one of the teachers.
The teacher said, "One day I was told to burn Mary-chan, but I couldn't. I knew my students loved her very much. I wanted to save her, so I put her in that closet."
The news about Mary-chan was broadcast on television, and then dolls with blue eyes turned up in one school after another. Out of the 12,000 dolls, about 160 survived the war. Leila was not among them.

Official translation

Taken from the New Horizon's teachers manual.






See also