In 1924 the Immigration Act prohibited Asian people from immigrating to the US. Sidney Gulick, an American missionary, and Eiichi Shibusawa from Japan proposed a doll exchange between the two countries in order to open an avenue for peaceful communication. 12,739 ‘American Blue-Eyed Dolls’ were sent from the children of the U.S. to the children of Japan as a ‘gesture of goodwill and friendship’. In return, 58 custom-made and over-sized dolls (Torei-dolls) were selected and sent to the US. That is how the ‘Japanese Friendship Dolls’, known also as ‘Japanese Ambassador Dolls’, were born.
In the ex-dormitories of the Togyoku Doll Company, which participated in the exchange of the ‘Japanese Friendship Dolls’, I invited its current president, Mr. Takashi Totsuka, to discuss for the role of the dolls in the life of the Japanese population. The interviewee expresses his anticipation to happen something again that will bring the Japanese Dolls in the forefront of the international scene and concurrently, his concerns for the maintenance of the tradition of doll crafting and the obstacles it faces today. The room where the interview takes place is staged and it includes a translator sitting in the middle with her back turned to the camera. In the video, the discussion is interrupted regularly by a footage that depicts a ceremony of young children dressed traditionally in kimonos. They walk on a corridor heading to a temple resembling fashion models on catwalk. The characteristic of the kimono that both, the children and the dolls, share is an element that reveals the link between the social aspect of the dolls and the theatricality of everyday life, suggesting the idea that dolls resemble people as much as people resemble dolls. The video poses questions for if dolls can play a social role beyond their significations to familial circles by intervening to geopolitical areas where people cannot easily go and alongside it correlates the aesthetic side of the dolls to people’s preoccupation for youth and beauty.
IWATSUKI | SAITAMA | 2015
HomeBase Project, Saitama
Video duration: 19:45 min