The Japanese community in Atlanta this Friday is set to unveil the newly built bell tower to house the Peace Bell given to the Carter Center by the Consulate General of Japan during the 1980s.
Meant to be melted down for ammunition during World War II, the bell somehow emerged unscathed, made its way to a British collector and then across the pond before being purchased as a gift for President Jimmy Carter to signify the close ties between Georgia and Japan.
Cast in 1820 and weighing in at 550 pounds, the bell originally hung in the Shoganji Zen Buddhist temple in Konu, Miyoshi City in Hiroshima Prefecture. It has been sitting in the foyer of the global health and peace-building nonprofit in Atlanta for more than 30 years.
Last year, a group of partners led by the Japan-America Society of Georgia initiated an effort to raise more than $300,000 for a traditional bell tower to house the bell on the Carter Center grounds.
A groundbreaking ceremony complete with a blessing by Buddhist priests was held in July to mark the beginning of site work that paved the way for Konu carpenters to construct the tower using traditional methods. The wood, milled from pines felled locally in Konu, was in a shipping container en route to the Carter Center at the time. Carpenters built the tower during a visit to Atlanta Aug. 2-19, completing the work in time for the Sept. 30 grand opening.
Envisioned as a symbol of peace and friendship, the bell becomes a new focal point at the Carter Center near the roundabout with flags fronting the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. The bell can be tolled by visitors, providing an audible reminder for passersby of the how peace can resonate through the generations with the right investment in international friendships.
Long before 2022, the bell has created many occasions for intercultural exchange, with President Carter visiting the Shoganji temple in 1990 to commemorate the installation of the Friendship Bell, a replica of the original. The Carter connections led to Miyoshi city becoming a sister city with Americus, Ga., just up the road from Mr. Carter’s hometown of Plains. Miyoshi is now home to the Jimmy Carter Civic Center. Miyoshi Mayor Satoshi Fukuoka is scheduled to take a ceremonial picture with Americus Mayor Lee Kinnamon during the opening ceremony.
The ceremony begins at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. It will include a ceremonial bell ringing by the chief priest of the Shoganji Temple and a member of the Soto Zen Buddhist sect in North America. The event will be followed by a reception and Zen Buddhist experience at the Carter Library.
Learn more about the groundbreaking and the story behind the tower here:
Watch a video of the construction of the tower — from the tree’s harvesting to the final installation — here: