Wednesday, May 2, 2012

International Friendship Bell

In Oak Ridge, Tennessee's, A. K. Bissell Park there is a Japanese Pagoda-like structure containing a traditional Japanese bell. Nearly 5 feet in diameter and more than six feet tall, it is cast in solid bronze and weighs more than four tons. It is rung by an external striker made of wood, in the Japanese style, rather than the western-style clapper. This is how it came to be:

Oak Ridge is a child of World War II. Before the war, the area was sparsely-settled farm land and small supporting villages. Everyone had to move away when the army chose this spot for the principal site of the Manhattan Project, the race to beat the Germans in the development of an atomic weapon. It was here that the uranium that went into the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, was produced. Here was the the pilot plant that led to construction of the plutonium reactors and processing facilities in Hanford, Washington. They produced the plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. No one would blame the Japanese people for hard feelings toward Oak Ridge.

In preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Oak Ridge, civic leaders were looking for a project that would provide a lasting legacy of the celebration. This project was initially suggested by a Japanese-American, Shigeko Uppuluri, whose husband worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It was cast by Soutetsu Iwasawa, a bellmaker in Japan. The $200,000 needed for the project came from donations from Oak Ridgers, as well as contributions from Japan, the U.S., and other countries.

The bell stands as a symbol of friendship between former enemies, and when rung proclaims that friendship to all within hearing distance.


  1. How humbling...Thank you, Jim.


  2. That's pretty cool! I love bells and the story behind it is so unique.