A 20-year-old symbol of the friendship between Oak Ridge and Japan is closed while the city makes structural repairs.
The Friendship Bell at Alvin K. Bissell Park was designed in Oak Ridge and cast in Japan in 1993. It’s mounted inside a wooden pavilion at the park in central Oak Ridge, but there is some rot in the wooden columns holding up the bell, said Jon Hetrick, Oak Ridge Parks Division supervisor. A structural engineer and an architect are evaluating the pavilion’s condition, and the city is waiting for their report.
Oak Ridge and Japan have a history dating back 70 years, when Manhattan Project production sites in the Secret City enriched uranium for the first atomic bomb used in war. That bomb, code-named “Little Boy,” was detonated over Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945, three days before a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and just days before World War II ended.
A plaque at the Friendship Bell says the bond between Oak Ridge and Japan is “much more meaningful because of the terrible conflict of World War II, which Oak Ridge played such a significant role in ending.
“This bell further serves as a symbol of our mutual longing and pledge to work for freedom, well-being, justice, and peace for all the people of the world in the years to come.”
The bell was given to Oak Ridge residents on the city’s birthday by the Oak Ridge Community Foundation and friends in the United States, Japan, and other nations, according to the plaque, which is dated 1996.