Miyoshi delegation attends ceremony in US to celebrate completion of Japanese peace-bell tower—Chief priest from Konu-cho temple rings peace bell

by Norio Chiba, Staff Writer

On September 30 (October 1, Japan time), a ceremony marking completion of a new bell tower was held at the Carter Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. The tower was built to house a Japan peace bell, sent from Shoganji Temple in Hichi, Konu-cho, Miyoshi City in Hiroshima Prefecture to the Japanese military during World War II, and is now located in the center. An official delegation representing Miyoshi City took part in the ceremony and celebrated the tower’s completion together with about 500 attendees who supported the construction, including representatives from the Japan-America Society of Georgia. The peace bell serves as a symbol of friendship between Japan and the United States. In the ceremony, Shodo Yoshii, 74, chief priest of the temple, struck the bell.

The ceremony was held in the Japanese garden located at the Carter Center, established in connection with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, 98. Guests included people from the local consulate general of Japan and business organizations. Miyoshi City Mayor Masashi Fukuoka delivered a speech, in which he said, “Construction of the peace-bell tower has been a wish of the citizens of Miyoshi City for a long time. I firmly believe the peace-bell tower will continue to be loved by the people of Atlanta as a symbol of peace and serve as a bridge between the United States and Japan.” Afterward, as the sound of the bell echoed solemnly, Mr. Yoshii performed a service to celebrate completion of construction on the bell tower.

The bell was provided by the temple to the Japanese military as material for the war effort. After the end of the war, the bell found its way to the United States via the United Kingdom. In 1985, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta, Georgia and other groups jointly purchased the bell and donated it to Mr. Carter. The bell was displayed at the Carter Center on a pedestal with the label “Peace Bell.” With the opportunity presented by the offering of the bell, Mr. Carter visited the former town of Konu-cho in 1990 and 1994. In 1995, Konu-cho and Americus, a city in Georgia located close to Mr. Carter’s birthplace, established a sister-city relationship. Since that time, the two municipalities have deepened friendship through mutual visits and other events.

Around ten years ago, members of the public from Konu-cho began activities on their own initiative to achieve construction of the bell tower. Last summer, a working committee was formed to support the bell-tower project and to purchase lumber and collect donations. This past summer, the committee sent carpenters from Japan to assist in the construction of a wood tower about four-meters high and roofed with tiles.

During the ceremony, a video from Konu’s schoolchildren and residents was shared with attendees. “Happy 98th birthday, Mr. Carter” and “We are looking forward to seeing you again” were messages contained in the three-minute video, with the idea of offering congratulations on completion of the bell tower and best wishes to Mr. Carter on his 98th birthday October 1. The video shown to the audience was said to have uplifted the mood at the ceremony venue.

Before the ceremony, the Miyoshi City delegation visited the Consulate-General of Japan in Atlanta. The delegation members are also scheduled to pay a visit to the city of Americus, after which they will return to Japan on October 4.

(Originally published on October 2, 2022)