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The Kobe Bell Meditation Garden at the Seattle Center represents friendship between the international sister cities of Seattle, Washington, and Kobe, Japan. The cast bronze bell was created for the 1962 World’s Fair and was presented to Seattle as a gift from the people of Kobe. A partnership between the two cities formed in 1957 as part of a broader post-World War II effort to develop ties that would foster global peace, cooperation, and understanding. The Kobe Bell is housed within a small wooden Japanese pagoda set within a peaceful meditation garden. Along with the bell, the city of Kobe has also gifted other symbolic tokens of friendship to Seattle over the years, including four red-crowned cranes in residence at the Seattle Zoo, cherry trees planted in Centennial Park, and an abstract wave sculpture at Pier 66 at the Port of Seattle.

The Kobe Bell Meditation Garden

Plant, Tree, Botany, Shade

The Kobe Bell at the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle

Sky, Cloud, Travel, City

The Kobe Bell at the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle

Building, Window, Idiophone, Wood

Kobe Bell Meditation Garden

Plant, Sky, Building, Tree

The Kobe Bell chimes during a 2015 ceremony in Seattle to commemorate 20 years since the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which occurred in Kobe, Japan, in 1995

Coat, Temple, Building, Plant

This cylindrical, cast bronze bell was sent from Kobe, Japan, to its sister city of Seattle, as a hallmark of friendship in advance of the 1962 World's Fair held in Seattle. The partnership between the two cities was established during the post-World War II, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower encouraged municipal governments in the U.S. to develop ties with other cities around the world as a sign of peace and cooperation. The successful program became known as Sister Cities International. Today, cities located in different parts of the globe continue to establish lasting partnerships. The program currently brings together tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers in forging these international bonds in more than 140 countries.

In 1957, Gordon Clinton, the mayor of Seattle, reached out to the city of Kobe, Japan, where Mayor Hagaruchi accepted the invitation for a sister-city relationship. A few years later, the city of Kobe sent a Friendship Bell to Seattle as a gift that could be dedicated and displayed during the 1962 World's Fair held in Seattle. The bell is housed within a small Japanese-style wooden pagoda, surrounded by a meditation garden that fosters reflection. True to the Japanese style of design, the Kobe Bell, also known as the Friendship Bell, does not contain an interior clapper. Rather, it is sounded from the exterior with a large log suspended above the bell at a right angle.

The bell is richly decorated with images of a dragon on the upper portion, and bas-relief scenes of Japanese gods playing flutes and drums on the lower portion. An inscription on the interior contains these words: "May this Bell Ring Forever Signifying Friendship and Goodwill between the Nations of the United States of America and Japan." This friendship was further symbolized on Friday, January 17, 2015, when the Kobe Bell was sounded in Seattle during a special ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which shook Kobe, Japan, on January 17, 1995. Also referred to as the Kobe Earthquake, it was one of Japan's worst natural disasters to date. After the bell was rung, a moment of silence followed to remember all those who had lost their lives during the quake.

"About Us", Sister Cities International. Accessed August 25th, 2023.

"Gardens," Seattle Center. Accessed June 27th 2021.

"Kobe Gifts", Port of Seattle. Accessed August 25th, 2023.

"The Kobe Bell, Seattle World's Fair, 1962," MOHAI. Accessed June 27th 2021.

Veyera, Joe. "Kobe Bell Chimes as Seattle Marks 20 Years Since Earthquake." Seattle Globalist. January 17th 2015. Accessed June 27th 2021.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Seattle Center



Seattle Center

The Seattle Globalist