At the west end of Shelter Island, which lies near the entrance to San Diego Bay, you’ll find a testament to the enduring friendship that has been established between two sister cities. San Diego and Yokohama are located on opposite sides of the wide Pacific Ocean, yet these two beautiful cities are closely connected.
In 1958 a large bronze traditional Japanese bell was dedicated on Shelter Island with great ceremony. It’s located in a prominent spot; ships from countries throughout the world pass it every day. The bell, created by Masahiko Katori, one of Japan’s living National Treasures, was presented during a Centennial Celebration which marked a hundred years of formal relations between the United States and Japan. The bell hangs in a pavilion surrounded by a narrow moat of water and a space of green grass.
The Bell of Friendship, which is six feet high and almost two and half tons, is seldom rung; but on New Year’s Eve the ram strikes the heavy bronze, resonating deeply–many say spiritually–welcoming a hopeful future.
At the front of the simple pavilion stands a three foot tall sculpture of a young girl. “The Girl in Red Shoes” by Japanese artist Munehiro Komeno debuted in 2010 and represents the friendship between the ports of San Diego and Yokohama. The sculpture portrays Kimi, a Japanese orphan who was adopted by a loving American couple in the 1920s. The girl was later diagnosed with tuberculosis and couldn’t leave Japan. The touching story has been told many times, and has become a symbol of the goodwill that exists between our two nations. Kimi holds a rose and carnation. The rose symbolizes Yokohama; the carnation is San Diego.