Buddhist temple bell
Watsonville Buddhist Temple Rev. Jay Shinseki preparing to ring the temple's ceremonial bell during the 2018 Obon Festival. —Johanna Miller/The Pajaronian file

WATSONVILLE—The simultaneous ringing of bells in sister cities across the United States and Japan to mark 75 years of peace since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will take place Aug. 5.

The event is part of an inaugural initiative of the newly created Japan Committee of Sister Cities International (SCI), a project that calls for citizen “diplomats” and city leaders to coordinate bell ringings in sister cities across the two countries.

“These can be bells big and small—houses of worship, hand bells, call bells, cow bells…anything,” said Rev. Jay Shinseki, resident minister of Monterey and Watsonville.

Shinseki said the event will begin with a short memorial service at 3:30pm where a large bell is stationed outside the Watsonville Buddhist Temple, 423 Bridge St. An incense offering will also be part of the event.

“At precisely 4:15pm we will ring the large bell in memory of all who died in the blast and later died from the effects of the A-bomb,” Shinseki said. “I hope those who are in attendance will be willing to help ring the bell.”

Those in attendance must wear a mask.

In 1945 the U.S. detonated two nuclear weapons, the first on Aug. 6 over Hiroshima and the second on Aug. 9 over Nagasaki. Between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians, were killed. Those attacks remain the only uses of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.

The bell project emerged from U.S./Japan sister city relationships that have developed since the end of World War II. The late photographer, artist, community leader and social activist, Richard Fukuhara, had the vision to have bells around the world ring 75 times to honor those lives lost in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. He founded Shadows For Peace in 2015 to honor the lives lost and share the stories of the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors). One goal is to promote peace through speaker forums, some of which included hibakusha living in the U.S. 

There are more than 455 sister city/state relationships in the U.S. and Japan, 162 of them within the SCI network, the second largest of any country.

Watsonville has a sister city relationship with Kawakami-Mura.

“There is meaningful symbolism to a showing like this since SCI was created to prevent wars like World War II, which ended with dropping of atomic bombs,” Shinseki said. “The world needs hope right now and a respite from the pandemic. For 75 rings of a bell on Aug. 5 and Aug. 8, you can help us celebrate a huge, positive milestone of peace for humankind.”

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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