Peace Garden dedicated by officials near and farOn a recent foggy and cool evening in Duluth, a distinguished crowd gathered to dedicate the new Japanese garden surrounding the Peace Bell in Enger Park.
Last Friday evening, foggy and cool, found a distinguished crowd gathered to dedicate the new Japanese garden surrounding the Peace Bell in Enger Park.
With several 20-foot-long silk fish floating in the trees and mist swirling overhead, a procession led by Duluth Mayor Don Ness and Mayor Ota of Isumi City, Japan, led the way to the recently constructed Japanese garden. Also in the procession were former mayors of both cities; Japanese delegates; Duluth delegates, city councilors; members of the Duluth Sister Cities International organization and honored guests. The procession culminated at the Peace Bell, where the mayors rang the bell together.
This year is the 20th anniversary of Duluth’s partnership with sister city Ohara/Isumi City in Japan. The story behind the partnership goes further back, though.
During World War II, the Japanese government instructed villages to donate whatever metal they could to be melted down for ammunition. For Ohara, that meant dismantling the city’s prized Buddhist temple bell and sending it to the government. By the end of the war, the bell was still intact. A naval crew from the USS Duluth found the bell in a shipyard and carried it to Duluth, where it became a gift to the city.
In 1954, a visiting Japanese professor initiated research on the origins of the bell. When the research pointed to Ohara as the place of origin, Mayor George Johnson decided to return it. He didn’t want to keep something that didn’t rightfully belong to the city.
When the people of Ohara were honored by Duluth’s overture of peace, they renamed the bell the American-Japanese Peace Bell. It became a symbol of goodwill between people.
In 1990, Ohara Mayor Yoshihito Saito contacted Duluth city officials and proposed the formation of a Sister City relationship.
Then, in 1991, the city of Ohara presented Duluth with a replica of the bell and arranged for the building of a bell tower to house it.
The site at Enger Park was dedicated as the location of Duluth’s Peace Bell to formalize and make a permanent symbol of the unique friendship between the cities.
This relationship has been strengthened annually through student exchanges and delegation visits.
In his dedication speech Friday, Mayor Ness declared that Mayor Johnson’s foresight made him a “hero of peace.”
Johnson’s daughter, Barbara (Johnson) Auerbach, spoke on his behalf, saying that her father had spoken of the bell return simply as an act of “common decency between people of goodwill.”
Mayor Gary Doty called attention to the fact that the garden is now a physical symbol for Duluth’s friendship with Ohara/Isumi City. He pointed out that seeds have been planted, and even after the original gardeners are gone, the seeds will yield fruit.
Enger’s Japanese Peace Bell Garden was initially recommended by the past president of the Duluth Sister City Commission, Ed Haller, and the leader of the 2005 Ohara delegation to Duluth, Mr. Motoyshi.
The garden’s design is based on Japanese gardens of past centuries.
As the Echoes of Peace choir sang along to Sara Thomsen’s guitar, small children danced, foreign dignitaries clapped and smiled, and the Duluth crowd was enchanted by the natural beauty of the new garden.
Standing next to the peace bell at the head of the garden, former Isumi City Mayor Yoshihito Saito said, “American people do great work.”
Back to the garden
There are four basic elements to a traditional Japanese garden: stones, water, plants and man-made objects. The structure of this garden is based on natural rock formations and stones arranged to visually represent streams, ponds and lakes. The lake is actually dry, but it is filled with small rocks raked to look like waves.
The manufactured objects include a covered entryway, a bridge, two stone lanterns, a stone pagoda and a few stone benches, which encourage walkers to linger and reflect.
Every element of the garden was planned to bring about a sense of peace for anyone who stops to enjoy it. For five years the Sister Cities commission has been developing and fundraising for this peace garden project. Nabutera Saito, a landscape architect from Ohara (who also was a 2005 delegate), supported the garden design proposed by the SAS Associates of Duluth.
The construction of the garden began this spring and will be completed before the snow falls.
It was made possible by the support and contributions of many people and organizations, including master city gardener Tom Kasper and volunteers.
S.E. Livingston can be reached at email@example.com.