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Historic Yokohama Friendship Bell Restored on Shelter Island

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A gift from across the Pacific, marking the establishment of the sister city relationship between San Diego and Yokohama, Japan, has been restored on the southwest tip of Shelter Island. (Courtesy: Allan Tait)The Friendship Bell — a gift from across the Pacific that marks the establishment of the sister city relationship between San Diego and Yokohama, Japan — has been restored at its home on the southwest tip of Shelter Island (map).

The two and one-half ton bronze Friendship Bell, by artist Masahiko Katori, was presented to San Diego by the citizens of Yokohama in May 1958. It was part of the Centennial Celebration of formal relations between Japan and the United States — the first such affiliation on the West Coast.

"We're honored to have the opportunity to preserve the friendship and goodwill of both cities in the form of public art," said Allan Tait, Port of San Diego's public art project manager.

Beginning fall of 2009, approximately $29,000 was used to restore the bell house and surrounding landscape from its natural aging and deterioration. The project, which took about six months to complete, was financed by the Port's Capital Major Maintenance Fund. Money from the fund is used to rebuild, restore or repair existing infrastructures on the tidelands.Beginning fall of 2009, approximately $29,000 was used to restore the bell house and surrounding landscape from its natural aging and deterioration. The project, which took about six months to complete, was financed by the Port's Capital Major Maintenance Fund. Money from the fund is used to rebuild, restore or repair existing infrastructures on the tidelands.

The tattered wooden roof has been rebuilt with new redwood rafters, sheathing, and synthetic CeDur shingles, which "enhance its durability and the authenticity of Japanese design," said Feda Yusufi, Engineering project manager. New lamps, which are also more in harmony with the Japanese style, have taken the place of the old industrial light fixtures. The concrete foundations and channel curbs were repaired, in addition to replacing the landscape with a thyme ground cover.

The major maintenance included replacing the deck, deck perimeter handrails and stairs, repainting the entire bell house and refurbishing the surrounding moat.The two and one-half ton bronze Friendship Bell by Masahiko Katori was presented to San Diego by the citizens of Yokohama in May 1958, as part of the Centennial Celebration of formal relations between Japan and the United States – the first such affiliation on the West Coast.

"The entire project was completed by our own engineers," said Yusufi, "with consideration of mitigating costs, while not compromising the quality of the historic piece."

In the many years of formal relations between the two cities, noteworthy exchanges of gifts and visits have taken place through the help of the San Diego–Yokohama Sister City Society. The Helen-Borshers Flowering Peach Tree was presented to the City of San Diego in 2008 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the San Diego-Yokohama affiliation.

At the same time the Friendship Bell's restoration is nearing completion, plans are underway to install Yokohama's newest gift to the citizen's of San Diego.

"The Girl in Red Shoes," a 40-inch tall bronze sculpture depicting a little girl with red shoes, will be installed near the bell house in June. The sculpture is from popular Japanese children's story and will sit on a 30-inch solid red granite base. A similar sculpture exists in Yamashita Park on Yokohama's waterfront.

The inscription on the new signboard at the exhibit reads, "The bronze sculpture 'The Girl in Red Shoes' by Munehiro Komeno was presented 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."

The Yokohama City Council is scheduled to formally present the artwork during a dedication ceremony on June 27, 2010.

The Port's Public Art Program is responsible for the many works of public art that can be seen in Port parks. The popular Urban Trees project, which includes 30 innovative tree sculptures along the North Embarcadero, Harbor Drive area of San Diego Bay, has received public accolades and worldwide attention.

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