Official preparations are firmly underway for a return visit to Japan for Miss Nagano, one of the original fifty-eight Japanese Friendship Dolls sent to the United States as a goodwill gesture in 1927. At that time, the Delaware Historical Society was the lucky recipient of one of these dolls, originally billed as Miss Karafuto. Fast forward to 1996: The doll’s true identity as Miss Nagano is established by Friendship Doll scholar and expert Michiko Takaoka, who was able to identify the mon (emblem) associated with Nagano Prefecture on the doll and her kimono. This mix-up was part of a much larger one that originated back when the dolls were carelessly unpacked and attributed in 1927.
This new attribution proved a cause for celebration and began a series of negotiations between the Delaware Historical Society and various agencies back in Nagano Prefecture. The plan was for the newly-discovered Miss Nagano to return to Japan for conservation work at the Yoshitoku workshops where she was originally made and then spend a year being exhibited at various locations throughout Nagano Prefecture. This heady scheme finally became a reality in September 2003, when representatives of the Shinano Education Association visited Wilmington for a formal loan signing ceremony to set things in motion.
At that time, the representatives presented us with a small token of their appreciation: a laser world clock in the form of a book that opens to a color picture of two American Blue-Eyed Dolls, which were what initiated the doll exchange program between Japan and the United States. This kick-off goodwill gift (a wonderful echo of its predecessor!) marked the beginning of a rare opportunity for the Delaware Historical Society to use its collections to serve, not only the people of Delaware, but also an international audience. It was also wonderful to be able to add materially to the continuing story of one of our prized collections pieces.