Friends of Japan in Georgia are working on a project to construct a proper bell tower for the “Peace Bell”, a symbol of years of Georgia-Japan Friendship. The Japan-America Society of Georgia and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, in cooperation with the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) office in Atlanta are working together to give the bell a home at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
The “Peace Bell” history is a winding tale of luck, goodwill, and peace. The bell was originally located at Shoganji Temple in Konu (now Miyoshi City), Hiroshima Prefecture. During World War II, an ordinance went out to collect metals and the bell was given to the Kure Naval Arsenal. Fortunately, the war ended before the bell could be destroyed. The bell ended up in England, then traveled to Florida, where it was eventually put up for sale in 1985. The Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta and the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta fundraised to purchase the bell. On July 24, 1985, the Consul General of Japan in Atlanta and the Chairman of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia gave the bell to President Carter and his wife for their promotion of Japan-United States friendship and world peace. It has remained at the Carter Center, a non-profit organization based on the values of former President Carter in promoting world peace, global health, and human rights, and “a paragon of the Japan-Georgia relationship” according to Kazuyuki Takeuchi, Consul General of Japan in Atlanta. It was not until 1987 when the Shoganji Temple learned the bell was intact and a cherished symbol of Japan-United States friendship no less. President Carter and his wife were invited to Miyoshi City and during their visit a monument of President Carter’s handwritten letter to the Shoganji Temple and a replica of the bell were unveiled.
Atlanta, Georgia has deep ties with Japan through sister city partnerships, cultural organizations, and trade. The state’s Japan-America Society is in Atlanta, dedicated to mutual understanding between the state and Japan, and the Japanese Consulate. Georgia has ten sister-city relationships with Japan. Atlanta has a sister city relationship with Fukuoka, Japan. Myoshi City, where Shoganji Temple is located, has a sister city relationship with Americus, Georgia that began the year after President Carter visited the city. There are eight universities in Georgia with Japanese studies programs and connections with Japanese universities, most located in Atlanta, and three of the six Japanese gardens in Georgia are in the city. Economically, Georgia exported $2.9 billion dollars of goods to Japan in 2017, and $5.7 billion dollars of Japanese greenfield investment has been invested in Georgia since 2003, which is supported by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia and JETRO.
The construction of the bell tower will reaffirm these deeply woven connections between Japan, Georgia, and President Carter. Japanese carpenters will lead the construction, which is planned to be completed by October 1, 2022 on President Carter’s birthday. There are ways to sponsor and get involved with this opportunity. Even though “understanding and exchange are difficult to express in a tangible way”, according to Nagachika Kikuno, Chair of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, supporters of the project hope the bell and tower will be a tangible symbol of friendship between Japan and Georgia.
Abbigail Hull is a Projects Coordinator at the East-West Center in Washington.