US-Japan Friendship Dolls Then & How to Help Today


In a heart-moving gesture a few years after the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 in Japan, American children made 12,000 blue-eyed dolls and sent them to Japanese children. After that, 58 highly ornate, beautifully crafted Japanese “Friendship Dolls” were sent by Japanese children to American children.
Today, this may all sound corny — but In the mid-1980s, I organized in Los Angeles a display of some of these Japanese Friendship dolls and hosted ‘remembrances’ of the exchange by Americans and Japanese who had been involved in the making of the dolls and exchange when they were very young. The comments from these octogenarians was so moving; they remembered in vivid, rich detail what these dolls meant at the time. The dolls were symbols and keepsakes with enormous emotion stored in them.
I don’t know what can help Japan now. As I’ve written and shared on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS show on CNN, I think that this is a time when Japan and its current leader, Naoto Kan, or some as yet undiscovered inspiring visionary, need to figure out a pathway to reinvention. If not, Japan will sink after the triple blow tragedies that have slammed it so hard.
But Japan does need help — and the Japan Society of New York has set up a Japan Earthquake relief fund to assist those in need.
The well-known expert on Japan’s political world, Gerry Curtis of Columbia University, sent me this information today. I hope some of you who feel so inclined will help out.

Gerald Curtis has sent you a message.
Date: 3/17/2011
Subject: earthquake relief fund

The Japan Society has created a disaster relief fund to aid victims of the massive earthquake and tsunamis that struck northeastern Japan. Your tax-deductible contributions will go to organizations that directly help victims recover from the devastating effects of the earthquake and tsunamis that struck Japan on March 11, 2011.
Please contribute to the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund by sending your check to:
Japan Society
333 East 47th Street
New York, New York 10017
Attn: Japan Earthquake Relief Fund
Please make your checks payable to Japan Society and indicate “Japan Earthquake Relief Fund” on the check.
You can also make an online donation from Japan Society’s website.
For additional information, please email

More later.
— Steve Clemons


23 comments on “US-Japan Friendship Dolls Then & How to Help Today

  1. Fiona says:

    The friendship dolls still exist and doo not find these corny at all. Some Japanese friendship dolls have been remodelled for the modern day and it does not sound corny at all.


  2. rc says:

    “RC’s odious comment is perhaps even worse.”
    Well, you’re entitled to your opinions.
    World’s 3rd largest economy, and about 5-6,000 confirmed dead it seems (NYT). May get to 10-12,000.
    Yes, it


  3. Dirk says:

    I read on a German site that portable generators had been brought but couldn’t be hooked up for some reason. Googling I found an English site; here’s the money quote:
    “Christopher D. Wilson, a reactor operator and later a manager at Exelon’s Oyster Creek plant, near Toms River, N.J., said, “normally you would just re-establish electricity supply, from the on-site diesel generator or a portable one.” Portable generators have been brought into Fukushima, he said.
    Fukushima was designed by General Electric, as Oyster Creek was around the same time, and the two plants are similar. The problem, he said, was that the hookup is done through electric switching equipment that is in a basement room flooded by the tsunami, he said. “Even though you have generators on site, you have to get the water out of the basement,” he said. ”
    More at:
    Something tells me this will feature prominently in any new designs.


  4. DakotabornKansan says:

    From time to time, I read this blog. World events are proceeding at a dizzying rate. We are not only dancing not on the edges of worldwide disasters, but also on the wooden seat of a latrine that seems to me more than a touch rotten. Soon societies will go plummeting down and drown in twenty centuries of shit. There is already quite a lot of shouting. (paraphrasing Flaubert)
    “What an awful thing life is, isn


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Larry Kudlow at CNBC…..


  6. Paul Norheim says:

    “Remember Paul, portable generators could have been brought in.”
    Yeah, I’we been wondering about that too.
    “Frankly, I doubt we can trust much of what we are being told, by their government, or ours. And we damned sure can’t
    trust what the nuclear energy spokesmen tell us”
    Haaretz’ Gideon Levy stayed in Japan for a week, and published a well written article yesterday, describing the eery
    feeling in Tokyo:
    “Does the Japan government know more than it’s saying?


  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, looking at the pictures of the one severely damaged secondary containment enclosure, it seems doubtful to me that the cooling system could have escaped damage on that particular reactor, even if they can restore power.
    Remember Paul, portable generators could have been brought in. There must be a reason they weren’t.
    Frankly, I doubt we can trust much of what we are being told, by their government, or ours. And we damned sure can’t trust what the nuclear energy spokesmen tell us, whether they represent the industry there, or here. That much is obvious just by considering the ridiculous bullshit we have heard from them this past week.
    I’m listening to this posturing sack of shit, Obama, right now, telling us we “do not expect” dangerous levels of fallout to reach the United States. I can’t help but remember when Bush was feeding us a similiar line about the air around the WTC.
    Yet we currently have people flying in from Tokyo, and setting off radioactivity detectors, which would seem to imply that Tokyo is being irradiated at levels beyond what we are being told.
    And Obama is requesting a review of the safety of our reactors here, to be conducted by the NRC. The same NRC that KNOWS companies falsified tests, purposely violated regulations, lied to inspectors, yet those SAME COMPANIES are still in the business of designing, testing, inspecting, and building nuclear facilities with the blessing of the NRC.
    Its a fuckin’ joke. Gosh, lets see if these plants are safe? Well, maybe the piece of shit oughta turn on the news.
    We have 23 plants that are the same as the plant currently cooking Japan, many of them in active seismic zones. Can Obama predict the next quake, its location, and its intensity? Can these sluts at the NRC?


  8. Paul Norheim says:

    Potentially very good news from Japan:
    “Emergency engineering teams at Fukushima nuclear plant have
    been laying new power cables to the pumps that should be
    keeping the reactors cool – the aim is to stop the fuel-rods
    overheating and causing a nuclear disaster.”
    Let’s hope that this works!


  9. MarkL says:

    It’s actually shocking to me (although it shouldn’t be) how many people are gloating that Japan is suffering now, because of Pearl Harbor.
    RC’s odious comment is perhaps even worse.


  10. DonS says:

    “Hopefully, we will see these Japanese leaders, and TEPCO executives, falling upon their swords”
    Certainly more likely than would any American politicos or financial magnates in similar circumstances. We can’t even put em in jail. Gross negligence, conspiracy to commit fraud, violation of law and regulation, lying under oath, bribery, conspiracy after the fact. You name it.


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Compassion??? Who can fail to feel for the Japanese people at this time??? I don’t understand the turn this conversation has taken.
    You want an eye opener? Read the Los Angeles Times article this morning on the fate of the people that are hunkered down inside their homes at the behest of the Japanese leadership. They are virtually abandoned, as their government has given them NOTHING, not even information. And the aid groups are afraid to go into this no man’s land to take them aid. High levels of radiation are now being detected eighteen miles from the plant, and these poor folks are hunkered down well within that contaminated zone. Apparently, they aren’t even aware of the grave danger they are in. All their government has given them is fear and uncertainty.
    Hopefully, we will see these Japanese leaders, and TEPCO executives, falling upon their swords, Certainly, they deserve to.
    And, tragically, with Katrina as a model, we can expect little more from our own government should we find ourselves suffering the same fate as the Japanese currently are.


  12. DonS says:

    Say, I wonder if it’s possible to have compassion for all the innocent Japanese at this moment, as I would hope they would have compassion for [the many screwed over] innocent Americans at this moment and to recognize the complexity of the human condition. Hard not to have compassion for most of humanity overall today, if not so much for the deluded power controlling class.
    And while the whale reference comes a bit out of left field, it is a highly notable exception to the image of the post WWII kinder, gentler Japan. Norway has been in the hunt, of course, but in a considerably more sustainable way. Whales should be left alone; too many of them get killed in the shipping lanes as it is.


  13. rc says:

    ok, just remembered the German thing. ok, guilty as charged.


  14. rc says:

    eh??? … wrong ‘rc’ for the German “politician’s musical taste…” comment I suspect. No memory of that crime. But I’ll take the heat on the other point, although there is no masking. I’m just not impressed with the ‘soft and cuddly’ image thing. It’s a mess for sure — looks a bit like Gaza really!


  15. Dirk says:

    Gee rc,
    First you make a bizarre attack on a German politician’s musical taste and the accompanying retirement ceremony and now you pile on to the Japanese people in their time of greatest need since 60 years; so bad that even the Chinese felt moved to offer their greatest sympathy.
    I’d say you have WWII issues. Clever, trying to mask it with sympathies for dolphins, which of course I share with you.


  16. rc says:

    Sorry, to offend.
    No, not a cleric, nor adorable.
    These disasters happen and there is no point being sentimental imo. If you are closely connected to Japan then of course it is tragic for you. If not, then it’s today’s news. Chile & NZ last week. Ache and Sri Lanka a few years back. California next year? How


  17. Paul Norheim says:

    Five workers dead at the power plant, according to a Norwegian
    TV channel – several of them apparently due to radiation. Twenty
    workers injured.
    The reporter says they don’t know much about what is going on
    at the moment; the reports “are confusing”.


  18. Paul Norheim says:

    your comment to the catastrophe in Japan reminds me of those
    adorable clerics who, whenever and wherever the death toll
    climbs beyond the imaginable, claim that they deserve it because
    they have sinned and come short of the glory of God.


  19. rc says:

    I’ll be more impressed and sympathetic when the Japanese have stopped their bullsh*t whaling ‘research’ programs. At present it just looks like: Whales – 3 : Tokyo – 0


  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “If Warren Mosler is right, then the biggest danger for Japan right now is that the globe’s mad austerity mongers and deficit terrorists will prevent Japan from spending the money they need to spend to rebuild their economy”
    I will make a wager that you will soon find that Japan’s “biggest danger right now” is environmental, not economic. You cannot rebuild a radioactive no-man’s land, no matter how you structure your economic “recovery”.


  21. charlie says:

    Steve, maybe the best way to do something is with the cherry blossoms festivals. The friendship dolls were much appreciated, what is the 21st century equivalent?
    I know, for me, the sakura will have special meanings this year.


  22. Dan Kervick says:

    If Warren Mosler is right, then the biggest danger for Japan right now is that the globe’s mad austerity mongers and deficit terrorists will prevent Japan from spending the money they need to spend to rebuild their economy. Or if they do spend it they will finance the infrastructure spending with a consumption tax, and plunge the rest of their economy into recession:


  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, judging by the actions of the current Japanese leadership, we BETTER help the Japanese people, because its becoming increasingly obvious that that their own leaders aren’t going to.
    Listening to Cooper’s (CNN) interview of that equivicating jackass defending the pathetic twelve mile evacuation zone, one wonders if he cares at all for the welfare of his own people.


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