Japanese friendship doll has home in Fullerton Public Library

In Local News, News
A Japanese friendship doll held at the Fullerton Public Library.
(Baylee Mausts / Daily Titan)

In 1926, a Japanese missionary sought to fix relations between anti-sentiment tensions of the United States and Japan with the start of the friendship doll program. The Fullerton Public Library is still home to a doll from the Japanese Dolls of Gratitude collection.

When Rev. Sidney Gulick returned from missionary work in Japan in 1913, he began the Committee on World Friendship Among Children to strengthen bonds between Japanese and Americans.

The doll, Miss Fukue Atsumi, came to Fullerton from the Fukue school in Atsumi, Japan, the city she is named after.

Janine Jacobs, manager of children’s services at the Fullerton Public Library, said their doll is not a friendship doll, but rather from the Japanese Dolls of Gratitude collection. Miss Fukue Atsumi is one of a kind, along with another Japanese Doll of Gratitude on display at a museum in New Jersey.  

“What’s interesting is we’re trying to find out more. We found a few years ago the history of Fullerton and at that point we had this doll. We don’t know all of its history,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said that eighth-grade girls from a Presbyterian church sent a doll called Ms. Esther California to Japan. Along with her went notes of friendship to the other Japanese children.

Ms. Ester California intended to travel to Fullerton’s sister city, Fukui, but instead got sent to the school in the city of Fukue, where the school reciprocated the doll back, according to Jacobs.

“They sent accompany dolls so that the doll would not be lonely. The extra dolls that the U.S. sent, because there were so many, they just gave them to schools,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said Miss Fukue Atsumi was previously on display in the children’s section of the library until the ‘90s when the staff realized the material on her kimono was fading.

“She was purely taken off display not to hide her as to preserve her,” Jacobs said.

Even though the historical doll has been taken off display, the library staff will occasionally bring her out to display her historical significance.

“When we talk to the third-grade kids on the history of Fullerton, we always bring her out and tell them her story. They get a chance to see what she looks like,” Jacobs said.

When World War II began, many Japanese people were told to give up and destroy their friendship dolls, said Jacobs. Similarly, many of the dolls were also destroyed in the United States.

“There were some people that hid some of them and kept some of them. In this country, some of the dolls were destroyed again, but we’ve kept our doll and so she’s one of a few,” Jacobs said.

She added that there are not a lot of treasures in Fullerton but she considers Miss Fukue Atsumi to be one of the unique things about Fullerton’s history.

“We didn’t realize how rare she was until recently. She’s one of our cities treasures so were hanging onto her as such,” Jacobs said.   

June Mcintire, the children’s librarian said the Fullerton library gets an abundance of donated displays from children and the elderly.

“We had to put them someplace, so we try to put them out where they’d be appreciated,” Mcintire said.

Mcintire said the library can not  keep everything they receive as they have a basement full of old items, but the displays and collectables they receive are displayed from time to time.

“It’s nice to have them in case we need them. We’re always putting up different displays so they come in handy,” Mcintire said.

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