Friday, March 18, 2016

Miss Iwate Resumes Her Role as Birmingham Public Library Friendship Ambassador

Ashley Hudson meets Miss Iwate

Eight-year-old Ashley Hudson and her big sister Allison, 13, were all smiles as they had a private meeting with Miss Iwate, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s Japanese Friendship Doll.

“I think she’s very pretty. I love her fan and umbrella,” said Ashley, a second grader at Birmingham’s Phillips Academy, as she squeezed Miss Iwate’s hand.

After a six-month absence in which she went back to Japan to get a makeover, Miss Iwate is ready to resume her mission as an ambassador of friendship with renewed enthusiasm. She originally came to Birmingham in July 1928 as part of a goodwill doll exchange between the children of Japan and the United States.

BPL will hold two big "welcome home" celebrations for her this weekend. The first will be on Saturday, March 19, at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens as part of the Japan America Society of Alabama's annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The second will be on Sunday, March 20, at the Central Library.

All events are free; however "An Evening with Alan Pate and Miss Iwate" requires reservations. Please register in advance at or call 205-226-3670.

The Birmingham Public Library is very proud of its role as the caretaker of Miss Iwate, said Angela Fisher Hall, director of the 19-branch system.

“We often share the story of Miss Iwate with visitors to the library who have an interest in our special collections, and many visitors ask for her by name. Before our city had its wonderful Birmingham Museum of Art, our library was the hub for culture and learning. It’s good to have Miss Iwate back home so that she can continue her mission of goodwill.”

Mr. Masaru Aoki of the Yoshitoku Doll Company came to Birmingham and took Miss Iwate back to Japan in September 2015, and her restoration was completed by Yoshitoku in October. From December 24, 2015, to March 6, 2016, she was on display at the Iwate Prefectural Museum in Morioka, Iwate, where she was accompanied by one of the "blue-eyed dolls" of the 1927 doll exchange. This doll belongs to an elementary school in Rikuzentakata which was hard hit by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. The doll was thought to have been lost in the tsunami; however, she was later recovered.

“Miss Iwate looks fabulous after her makeover, and she’s still aglow from the warm welcome she had back in Iwate Prefecture,” said Haruyo Miyagawa, head of the Arts, Literature and Sports Department at the Central Library. “As you can see from these photos, she’s happy to make new friends.”

Learn more about Miss Iwate at

Below are details on the Miss Iwate homecoming celebration events taking place this weekend:

Saturday, March 19, 1:30-3 p.m., Garden Center, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Linn-Henley Lecture Hall
Cherry Blossom Festival
A "welcome home" reception will be held for Miss Iwate. Students from Highlands Day School, a private school in Birmingham, will sing Japanese children's songs. Koji and Laurie Arizumi, a husband/wife duo, will perform Japanese music.

Sunday, March 20, Arrington Auditorium, Linn-Henley Building, Central Library 
2:30-3:30 p.m. – Japanese Tea Party
A tea party will be held in the Arrington Auditorium in the Linn-Henley Research Library. The local chapter of the Urasenke School of Tea will perform a tea ceremony. Children and adults are encouraged to bring their favorite dolls, action figures, etc. Light refreshments will be served.
4-5:30 p.m. – Alan Pate Lecture
Alan Scott Pate, of Tampa, a noted expert on Japanese Friendship Dolls, will discuss their history and significance. Japanese–style refreshments will be served. The event is free, but please register in advance at

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