During the aftermath of World War Two Chiyoji Nakagawa, a former Mayor of Uwajima in Shikoku presented a token of peace to the United Nations. It is a large bell, similar to those housed in larger Buddhist temples throughout Japan. To manufacture the bell, Mr Nakagawa, working on his own, canvassed 65 member countries of the (then) new United Nations asking for donations of coins to melt down and be used as material. His mission was to remind the world of the importance of peace and to say that no nation should experience an atomic bomb attack as his country’s cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, witnessed in August 1945.
On 8 June 1954, the completed bell was presented to the United Nations as a symbol of everlasting world peace. Today, the World Peace Bell is located in the inner court of the United Nations headquarters in New York. It is supported on soil received from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There, the story might have ended but in 1982 a World Peace Bell Association was formed with co-operation from ambassadors representing 128 nations. The Association promotes a world free from the evils of nuclear war and presents replica World Peace Bells to various nations.
At present, there are 21 World Peace Bells in 17 countries. Coins to manufacture the bells have been donated by 103 United Nations member states, including New Zealand. The nearest World Peace Bell to New Zealand was presented to Cowra, Australia, in 1990. This bell symbolizes peace initiatives and friendships made between the people of Cowra and Japan following the tragic Japanese breakout from Cowra’s World War Two prison camp on 5th August 1944.
The New Zealand World Peace Bell stands at one metre high, 609 mm wide, and weighs a hefty 365 kg. It is the largest display bell in New Zealand. The World Peace Bell is housed in a pavilion located in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. It has become the focal point of a specially developed Peace Walk around central Christchurch.