I’ve driven past the Yokohama Friendship Bell at the western end of Shelter Island dozens of times and each time found the secluded place quiet and empty. I have since learned it is usually gonged (not rung) on New Year's Eves for luck.
On the morning of Thursday, August 9, a gathering commemorated the 67th anniversary of the nuclear bombing and devastation of Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. It was the last time atomic weaponry was used against humanity; Hiroshima was similarly destroyed three days prior. More than 250,000 people were killed in both cities, leading to Japan’s surrender that ended World War II.
Thursday’s Peace & Humanity Day gathering at the bell was sponsored by the San Diego WISH Organization (Worldwide Initiative to Safeguard Humanity). A standing-room-only crowd included a man that survived the attack at Hiroshima and a woman survivor from Nagasaki.
The hourlong ceremony included speakers, music, and the sounding of the bell, which is intended to symbolize the celebration of freedom and a wish for eternal peace. The Friendship Bell was cast by Masahiko Katori, presented to San Diego as a gift by the citizens of Yokohama in May 1958 to recognize peaceful relations between Japan and the United States; it was dedicated on December 10, 1960.
The bell also marked the establishment of the sister-city affiliation between Yokohama and San Diego, the first on the West Coast. The suspended six-foot-tall bell weighs almost 5000 pounds and is sounded by striking the outside with a suspended ram. It is displayed in an open-sided house of Japanese design surrounded by a shallow moat.
Bouquets of flowers and more than 1000 origami cranes meant to perpetuate noble wishes were laid at the bell by five young peace ambassadors. In turn, a number of San Diego and Japanese community representatives offered brief words of hope and friendship to the attentive crowd. Some attendees found it necessary to shelter themselves with umbrellas against the midday sun.
Eight-year old San Diego student Isabella Brown delivered a message of hope.