Known as The Yokohama Friendship Bell, it is located at 1401 Shelter Island Drive on the southernmost cul-de-sac of Shelter Island, and it was given to the City of San Diego from the City of Yokohama, Japan, as a symbol of eternal friendship in 1958. It’s date of placement is listed as July 31, 1958, according to the Port of San Diego archives.
According to the Port of San Diego archives, the bell was presented as part of the Centennial Celebration of formal relations between Japan and the United States. This gift served to mark the establishment of a sister city relationship between San Diego and Yokohama, the first such affiliation on the West Coast. It was transported to San Diego by the United States Navy aboard the U.S.S. Prairie, according to the Port of San Diego archives.
The Yokohama Friendship Bell’s bell house was dedicated on Dec. 10, 1960, which was a couple of years before the Port District was formed and when it was part of the city of San Diego’s Harbor Department, according to the Port of San Diego’s archives.
Constructed with local materials, it was specially designed and cast in bronze by Masahiko Katori, who was Japan’s foremost artist in this field. It is 6-feet high, weighs 4,600 pounds and includes this inscription: “Bell of Friendship, presented to the citizens of San Diego from the citizens of Yokohama, as a symbol of eternal friendship, May 1958.” The inscription is also written in Japanese.
It was tolled for the first time on Dec. 10, 1960, by Bishop Yamada of the Zen Shu Buddhist Temple. He was joined by then-Mayor Charles Dail and other civic leaders. It was tolled the traditional 18 strokes.
“The bell is traditionally rung on New Year’s Eve. The ceremony is an annual event. Members of the San Diego Yokohama Sister City Society make the annual arrangements with the Port of San Diego, and the public is invited to be present and participate in the actual ringing. Each person can strike the bell once,” said Marguerite Elicone of the Port of San Diego.
In 2009, the bell house was rebuilt with new redwood rafters, the deck repaired, and the landscaping and moat surrounding refurbished, according to Port of San Diego archives.
Also, should you visit, near the bell is the Helen-Borshers Flowering Peach Tree, which was presented to the city of San Diego on Feb. 17, 2008 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the San Diego-Yokohama affiliation.
There is also a bronze sculpture, "The Girl in Red Shoes," by Munehiro Komeno, which was placed on June 2, 2009. It's from a popular Japanese children's story, and a similar sculpture stands in Yamashita Park on Yokohama's waterfront. The plaque states that it was given to the citizens of San Diego by the citizens of Yokohama "for eternal friendship and to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Yokohama Port Opening, June 2, 1859."
How it Works
There is no clapper inside like most bells and is instead rung by being struck with a large wooden ram that is suspended horizontally across. To ring the bell, the ram is pulled back with a lanyard and released causing it to strike the bell. The design of the Japanese Bell is Japanese and in the Buddhist style, it is open on all four sides and surrounded by a moat.
You can visit the Yokohama Friendship Bell anytime as there is no admission charge.