Gift Cast From Wartime Japanese Weapons To Ring In The Changes In Iraq

Gift cast from wartime Japanese weapons to ring in the changes in IraqA “Bell of Peace” cast from wartime Japanese munitions was set to depart for Iraq on Nov. 27 to ring out a message of hope from the Japanese people at the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The 5-kg bell is one of two made by Yasutaka Kumagai, a 66-year-old former high school teacher from Akita, using iron from weapons in a reversal of the wartime practice of casting ammunition from temple bells.

Kumagai, a representative of the nongovernmental organization Bells of Peace, said it had hit upon him to “turn weapons back into bells to produce an iconic symbol for peace.”

“I hope the chimes of the bell from Japan will resonate in the hearts of Iraqi people and help strengthen their determination to build a peaceful country,” he said.

Maki Sato, chief secretary of the Japan Iraq Medical Network (JIM-NET), a Tokyo-based nongovernmental aid group, was scheduled to depart for Iraq with the bell on Nov. 27. It will be put on display at the Music and Ballet School in Baghdad.

Kumagai supervised the hand-bell club at his school in Akita. In 2004, the club members performed a song composed for a poem written by an Iraqi girl who studied at the Baghdad school.

Kumagai came up with the peace bell idea after he started studying the history of temple bells around 1993.

Buddhist temples around Japan were made to donate iron bells to produce weapons to help sustain Japan's desperate efforts during the final stages of the war.

Since February, he has collected 15 machine gun bullets and a 15-centimeter-long anti-aircraft bullet that were used by the wartime Japanese military from bereaved families of former soldiers and antiques dealers.

The other Bell of Peace was donated in August to a citizens' group in Akita, which was one of the last cities attacked in the U.S. air raids toward the tail end of the war in 1945.