Now: Legacy of Friendship Exchange: 97-year old Ichimatsu dolls on view at “Japanese Friendship Dolls” exhibition in Detroit Institute of Arts, through June 5

Miss Fukiko Akita, collection of the Detroit Children’s Museum.

Miss Mariko Osaka (left), collection of the Ohio History Connection, Columbus; and Miss Hiroko Hiroshima, collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Akita Sugi-o (left), 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 Detroit Institute of Art puppetry collection.

DETROIT – 97-year old Ichimatsu dolls are exhibited at Japanese Friendship Dolls in the Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan, running Dec. 2, 2023 – Jun. 5, 2024

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 Detroit Institute of Art puppetry collection.

Three ichimatsu dolls at “Japanese Friendship Dolls” exhibition are: Miss Fukiko Akita, collection of the Detroit Children’ s Museum; Miss Mariko Osaka, collection of the Ohio History Connection, Columbus; and Miss Hiroko Hiroshima, collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Called Friendship Dolls in 1927, total 58 ichimatsu dolls were sent from Japan to the U.S., and currently the 47 dolls are existing and have known locations.

The story of the Friendship Dolls begins 97 years ago when American children sent blue-eyed dolls to Japanese children for the Japanese Hinamatsuri in March.

At 2:00 pm on Sunday, Jan. 21, Mr. Alan Pate, one of the world’s leading scholar of Friendship Dolls will speak at the lecture hall in the Detroit Institute of Art.

This exhibition is made possible with support from the Japanese Business Society of Detroit Foundation and the Audley M. Grossman Puppetry Fund.