American Girl Doll Club teaches Japanese history and culture |

The American Girl Doll Club gathered at the Wyeth-Tootle Mansion on Sunday to learn about Japanese culture. This year, the group focused on the historical Japanese doll “Miss Hyogo”.

Sara Parks, programming and events coordinator at St. Joe’s Museums, said this is the third anniversary of the annual Doll Club Tea Party.

“We take the girls’ doll club and they usually come to the historic Wyeth-Tootle Mansion in December and have a tea party that’s usually focused on a certain doll,” she said. “This year, we are making our Japanese doll, Miss Hyogo, and learning a bit more about Japanese culture.”

Parks explained that Miss Hyogo, who is on the second floor of the mansion, has been part of the museum’s collection since the 1920s. The doll was part of a friendship doll program that took place after World War I. to improve relations between the United States and Japan.

For the program, the United States sent more than 1,200 dolls to Japan. In return, Japan sent 58 dolls, which are the size of 6-year-old children, to the United States; this is how Miss Hyogo became part of the mansion’s collection. The doll was accompanied by several other items, including a trunk and passports.

Parks said dolls are very important in Japanese culture because they are believed to bring fortune and good luck.

Parks noted that Miss Hyogo was sent back to Japan for restorations and was returned sometime between the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, smaller Japanese friendship dolls were also sent to the United States and two are at the mansion.

“(Miss Hyogo) has been upstairs and on display ever since,” she said. “So she really is an integral part of the museum’s collection.”

Tea party attendees were able to design their own dolls using Barbie dolls, eat Japanese food, and make their own tea cups. They also learned about tea, passports, traveling to other countries, origami and paper swans. They could see Miss Hyogo and other toys sent with her.

Parks said the Doll Club is held every two months at the mansion starting in February, with the Doll Club Tea Party being held in December. The age range for the doll club is kindergarten to around 12 years old. Attendees can register through a Facebook event posted at facebook.com/stjosephmuseums or on the museum’s website at stjosephmuseum.org. The cost is approximately $8 per child.

For Doll Club, Parks said she would feature about six historic dolls a year, with the mansion’s doll collection ranging from the 1700s to the 1980s.

“You don’t have to have an American Girl doll to come,” she said. “Usually I use (the dolls) to teach girls about this historical period and show them what girls would have done at that time.”

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