Duluth, MN 55806
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Celebrates Duluth's sister city relationship with Ohara Isumi-City, Japan.
The Japanese Peach Bell Garden includes:
1) The Japanese (Ohara) Peace Bell (you can ring it)
2) Japanese Zen Garden
The Japanese Peace Garden
At the other end of the park, a small Japanese garden fills a mostly sunny spot.
Japanese rock zen garden with bell tower in background
The Japanese Peace Bell Garden includes a large zen garden (a dry rock garden), some unusual evergreens, and a Japanese bell tower that houses the Ohara Peace Bell.
Japanese garden with rocks and bell tower
The original bell seems to date back to 1686 and once hung at the Cho-ei Temple in Ohara (now Isumi), Japan. While the temple was (apparently) destroyed long ago, the bell survived World War II. But barely. At the end of the war American sailors aboard the USS Duluth found it in a pile of scrap that was to have been melted down to feed Japan’s war effort. It became an American war souvenir instead.
By 1949 it was on display in the Duluth city hall.
However, just a few years later, scholars visiting from Japan recognized the bell. Not only had it come from a temple in Ohara, but it was the oldest surviving temple bell from that city. They asked city officials to return it to its home city in Japan. And so, the bell returned to Ohara and went on display there.
That could easily have been the end of the story as far as Duluth was concerned, as the bell’s time in city was a brief, largely forgotten bit of city history. But the bell’s return meant a lot to the people of Ohara - and they didn’t forget Duluth’s role in returning it.
Officials from Ohara asked Duluth to become a sister city in 1989. In 1993 a “replica” of the Ohara bell (now called the Ohara Peace Bell) was sent to Duluth as a gift.
While the bell in Duluth is constantly described as a replica of the ancient Cho-ei Temple bell, it really isn’t. It’s a “close replica” that displays the Duluth logo and an inscription with the bell’s history. (It’s also the second replica sent to Duluth, as the first cracked shortly after installation.)
And yes, visitors are allowed to ring the peace bell.
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