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Miss Nagasaki

Miss Nagasaki is one of the 58 Doll Ambassadors (Torei Ningyo), sent to the United States from the children of Nagasaki Prefecture1, Japan in 1927. These dolls are superior quality ceremonial dolls, known as Yamato Ningyo, in Ichimatsu style (so named because the doll's dress and demeanor recalls a famous 18th-century actor).

Physical Characteristics

Miss Nagasaki is 81 cm tall, and was made by Mr. Khoryusai of Yoshitoku Dolls, Tokyo. All but a few of the ambassador dolls were made by this firm of master doll makers. Miss Nagasaki's head, limbs, and upper and lower body are made primarily of wood, with joints between the limbs provided by sections of cloth. The wood is covered with many layers of powdered shell called gofun. The final layer is polished to produce a very smooth surface, which is then painted. Her eyes are glass and she has human hair.

Miss Nagasaki

Miss Nagasaki

Obi Closeup

Detail of Clothing.
Obi and related parts are labelled.

Okoshi Closeup

Detail of Okoshi cloth.
Pattern made up of gold butterflies, birds and stippling.


The dolls were provided with hand-printed and -painted robes of fine silk crepe, called kimonos. Over this is tied a brocade sash called obi. Miss Nagasaki's kimono is primarily blue and pink, with green, red, pink, and yellow floral designs. Her obi is reddish orange with blue, pink, purple, and green floral embroidered designs. Her obi tie is named fukuru suzumi, meaning "sparrow."

The following description of the dolls' clothing was made during the 1998 return visit of several of the ambassador dolls, including Miss Nagasaki, to Yoshitoku in Tokyo for repairs:

The dolls each wear combi underwear, a white cotton shirt/pants combination. Generally children wore them, never dolls. A cotton cloth cushion with cotton on the inside fits on the back and is tied around the waist. This is to give the kimono the desired straight appearance with no waist visible. The doll makers, at this time, also generally added a flat piece of cotton wrapped inside of tissue, and tied this around the waist. This is also to achieve the straight line so there is no waist or hip differentiation. The doll has two sets of red silk underwear under the kimono. The one next to the combi is a tied skirt, called an okoshi. Over this is the hadajuban which is like a light kimono. These two are in chirimen silk. ...White cotton twill tape was placed over the obi and through the misubime (bow in the back) to hold it in place. The obi jime is a cord tied in a special knot in the center of the large obi and the obi age is a red and white shoken silk cloth tucked into the coverings. The doll wears tabi, the white cloth foot coverings. This is also unusual as dolls normally never wore these, only children2.

The unusual measure of providing the dolls with underwear and socks was thought to be fitting to their duties as ambassadors3.

Current Condition

Miss Nagasaki has been carefully preserved since her arrival at the Rochester Municipal Museum (later the Rochester Museum of Arts & Sciences, now the Rochester Museum & Science Center), but she has been exhibited many times and has received the attention of countless school children and adults alike. She is in generally good condition, but time and use have also had their effects. Her kimono has faded somewhat from its original brilliance, this is primarily due to the effects of light over time. She also developed cracks and chips in the gofun skin on her face, head, and legs.

Some repairs were conducted in 1988 by Ms. Hatoe Ohtani, Mr. Akira Ueda, and Ms. Nahomi Iwase, supervised by Mr. Tokubei Yamada, Master Dollmaker of Yoshitoku Dolls, Tokyo, when Miss Nagasaki (then thought to be Miss Aomori) returned to Japan for an exhibit on the Friendship Doll exchanges. Cracks and chips were filled and smoothed, her tabi were cleaned and her clothing rearranged properly. Repairs stopped short of a full renovation, and the locations of the cracks are still visible, including one down the side of her nose. Full resoration would have involved completely repainting her face and limbs, but it was desired to retain as much of her original surface as possible.

Since 1986, Miss Nagasaki has been housed in a specially-built container made only of acid-free materials in a regulated environment of 72 degrees farenheit at 58% humidity. Under these controlled conditions, the museum is better able to prevent any further deterioration. At the same time, we are easily able to bring her out for visitors.

Head showing cracks

Closeup of head prior to repair at Yoshitoku.
Cracks are visible near ear and above eye along side of nose.

Head after repair

Closeup of face after repair at Yoshitoku.
Notice crack along nose and above eye barely visible.

1 A prefecture in Japan is political subdivision in some ways comparable to a state. Nagasaki prefecture is at the westernmost edge of Kyushu, which is the southwesternmost of the major islands of Japan. Large cities in Nagasaki Prefecture include Nagasaki, Sasebo, and Shimabara.

2 Letter from Natalie Firnhaber to the RMSC and various other museums, April 5, 1988, RMSC primary file for Acc. 29.21.

3 Tokubei Yamada, President of Yoshitoku Dolls, Tokyo, quoted by Kunio Nishimura in "The Friendship Dolls" Look Japan, July 1995, available on-line at (2002-10-04).

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