Miss Ishikawa Has a Secret
These dolls wear complete undergarments, which Japanese dolls normally do not have. I saw one of them on another doll. They look like the onesies American babies wear in the 21st century. They have the little tab sock and shoes. The kimonos are silk and are exact replicas with every piece made in proportion. Each is a one-of-a-kind, made especially for each doll.
The dolls were created by master crafts men, the official doll makers of each prefecture. The prefecture is comparable to our state. Each prefecture has an official emblem. These emblems were woven into the silk which was made specifically for each doll, whose name is the prefecture name. The dolls came with their accoutrements, which were miniatures of what would have accompanied a bride given in marriage. Some have tiny tea sets, some have lacquered furniture and fans. Miss Ishikawa’s set includes a lacquered trunk bearing her prefecture’s (Ishikawa) emblem.
But, Miss Ishikawa has a secret. She isn’t really Miss Ishikawa. She’s really Miss Akita. The emblem on her kimono is from the prefecture of Akita. Miss Akita resides in Detroit, Michigan, wearing the emblem of Miss Ishikawa.
When the dolls arrived in this country, they were welcomed as Ambassadors with official status. After the gala parties, they were repackaged and shipped to museums across the country. In that handling it is assumed that at least two of the dolls, Miss Akita and Miss Ishikawa, were separated from their belongings and arrived in a swapped situation. They are both beloved in their cities, with their assumed names, and have been for 89 years.
The error was discovered recently by Alan Pate. You will read his name in my acknowledgements, as he assisted me with some research questions. He has a beautiful website you might want to take a look at, and has recently released a new authoritative book on the Ambassador Dolls. Alan is a world renowned expert on antique oriental dolls. He used to live in Montana, but has recently relocated. With the expert’s eye, he recognized the tiny emblem on Miss Ishikawa’s kimono as that of the Akita prefecture, and doesn’t match the emblem on her trunk.
On Saturday, guests who could find the two emblems received buttons to wear. Those are the buttons shown in the picture above, revealing the long-held secret of Miss Ishikawa. The long leaf is the emblem of the Prefecture Ishikawa and is inlaid into her trunk. The clover is the emblem of Prefecture Akita and is the emblem woven tiny into the lapel of her kimono. And now you know her secret.