Japanese kids replace
doll lost in Camille
Students pitch in their yen
for new symbol of friendship
By Jerry Kinser
Miss Ehime-ken is back, reincarnated in the Gulfport-Harrison County Library.
The original of the 3-foot Japanese doll disappeared during Hurricane Camille in 1969.
But now, thanks to Japanese schoolchildren who donated 10 yen apiece, a new doll, with her household belongings, has arrived. She will be on display after a glass case has been built to protect her.
The doll and accessories are worth $20,000, but her value is as a symbol of friendship.
The original doll was part of an international exchange of dolls sponsored by the Committee on World Friendship Among Children in the 1920s. The exchange was inspired by the ancient Japanese festival of marriage and motherhood, in which expensive and elaborate dolls are placed as honored guests in Japanese homes.
Librarian Coleen Byrd said Japanese authorities learned of the original dollís fate when they contacted her two years ago in an attempt to track down 58 porcelain ambassadors that had been sent to American children in the late 1920s. "i had to tell them that only the dollís red shoes were found in the debris after the storm," Byrd said.
"Every year, Iíve gotten mail from Japan," said Byrd. "They say, Ďtell us about the doll.í
"Actually, (she) was given to the children of Mississippi," Byrd said, "and, for some reason, Gulfport was chosen as the recipient..."
Mariko Hirai, a producer with Japanese public television, visited Gulfport for the second time in July to film the story of the original dollís fate. The story stirred the school children of Japanís Ehime Prefecture to replace her.
Of the other 57 dolls that came to America with the original Miss Ehime-ken, only 25 have been located. Those survivors, along with the remaining American dolls from the exchange, have toured 10 Japanese cities. The human hair on several of the dolls has turned gray.