Torei Ningyo (Doll of Gratitude)
Doll Japan, c. 1927
Yamaguchi is a Japanese ambassador doll, one of 58 dolls sent to cities in the
U.S. from the Japanese government in November 1927. These dolls were sent in response
to gifts of some 700 American Friendship Dolls.
president Calvin Coolidge signed the Immigration Act of 1924, Japanese immigration
to the U.S. was effectively stopped. In order to promote goodwill between the
U.S. and Japan, Dr. Sidney Gulick, a former missionary who lived in Japan between
1888 and 1913 who understood
the importance of dolls in Japanese culture, initiated a program to send American
friendship dolls to Japan.
When Miss Yamaguchi arrived in the United
States, her first home was Chicago, Illinois, in the Children's Museum at the
Art Institute of Chicago. She has lived at the Museum of International Folk Art
since Chicago native Florence Dibell Bartlett founded it in 1953.
Yoshitoku Doll Company in Tokyo, which made most of the Torei dolls, probably
made Miss Yamaguchi. Her body is mostly wood, covered with a skin made of many
layers of powdered shell, called gofun. Her eyes are glass, and she has
real human hair. All the dolls are made to look like individuals, their costumes
differ, as do their features styles. They wear underwear and socks, or tabi,
which is unusual for Japanese dolls. They were sent with these special garments
to ensure that they had everything they needed to fulfill their duties as ambassadors.