Construction of “Peace Bell” Tower at Carter Center, base of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter who have close bond with town, and the bell originally sent to Japanese military as offering during wartime, to deepen US-Japan friendship

Citizen’s volunteer Project Support Executive Committee assists in sending carpenters and supplying construction materials as next year’s goal

by Norio Chiba, Staff Writer

The residents of Konu-cho, Miyoshi City, are providing support for the construction of a bell tower for a bell originally sent to the Japanese military as a material offering during wartime from a temple in Konu-cho, now displayed at the Carter Center, for worldwide peace and health, in the U.S. State of Georgia. The Carter Center is the base of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, 97. The Japan-America Society of Georgia and other organizations launched a project with the goal of completing the construction of the bell tower in September, 2022. In Konu-cho, a project support executive committee made up of volunteer residents, plans to send carpenters and supply construction materials, and will begin a fundraising campaign on December 10.

The bell has been on display on a pedestal at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia as the “Bell of Peace” to symbolize Japan-U.S. friendship. The bell, once belonged to Shoganji Temple in Konu-cho, was offered in the war effort to the naval dockyard in Kure as a source of metal for munitions during wartime, and was later sent to the United States via the United Kingdom after the war. In 1985, it was purchased by the Japanese Chambers of Commerce in Atlanta (and other organizations) and then donated to Mr. Carter.

For about 10 years, the residents in the town have asked the Carter Center to hang the bell so it could be rung, by junior high school students who make friendly visits to the center and Americus City, GA. With Americus, a sister-city agreement was concluded when Konu-cho was known as Konu Town before the administrative consolidation of cities and towns in Japan. With the approval of Mr. Carter, it was decided to build a bell tower near the Japanese garden at the Center.

At the request of the State of Georgia, a Japanese construction method is to be adopted for the construction of the bell tower. The executive committee will procure and process construction materials such as cypress trees in Japan, and send processed materials to the United States next summer. Three or four carpenters will be sent to the site from Konu-cho for about one month to help with the construction. The committee is also planning to collect donations for preparing the design drawings and other expenses. Donations can be made by money transfer using transfer slips available at the city’s Konu branch office and post offices in the town, or from the website of the “Bell of Peace” Project Support Executive Committee.

Saichiro Hanagami, 51, head of the executive committee, said, “I hope visitors to the center will feel Japanese culture from the sound of the bell and that the sound itself will be a new starting point for exchange between Japan and the United States.”

In connection to the bell, Mr. Carter visited the former town of Konu in 1990 and 1994. In 1995, a sister-city relationship was established with the City of Americus located near his hometown. The relationship was passed to Miyoshi City after the town consolidated administrative duties with the city, while exchanges, including mutual visits by junior high school students, continue to this day.

(Originally published on December 9, 2021)