A dedication ceremony was held Sept. 30 at the Carter Center for the new Japanese bell tower that allowed the ancient bell to be rung for the first time in years. (Photos by Dyana Bagby)

“The magnificent bell once again delivers beautiful sound in all directions, the wondrous resonance returns to the ultimate realm of peace.” — From a prayer to dedicate the Japanese peace bell tower.

Former president Jimmy Carter celebrated his 98th birthday today, Oct. 1, and received the gift of an ancient, Japanese peace bell ringing for the first time in decades.

The more than 500-pound bell tolled during a ceremony the day before at the Carter Center to dedicate the Peace Bell Tower. The bell tower, a gift from the Japanese community to the former president and Georgia’s former governor, is an ornate structure carved from 150-year-old Japanese cypress trees by Japanese carpenters. The beams were shipped to the U.S. and constructed over the summer on the grounds of the Carter Center by local and Japanese carpenters.

Former president Jimmy Carter celebrates his 98th birthday today, Oct. 1

Jason Carter, grandson of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and chairperson of the board of trustees of the Carter Center, spoke at the Sept. 30 ceremony. He said his grandparents are grateful for the symbol of cooperation and friendship between Georgia and Japan.

“But I have to say on the eve of his 98th birthday the thing that he would have appreciated the most, and that when he comes up here next he will spend his time doing, is looking at the craftsmanship,” he said. “Because he is at heart a woodworker and this is a beautiful tribute and personal tribute for him.”

Last year, Kazuyuki Takeuchi, consul general of Japan based in Atlanta, brought together leaders of the Japan-America Society of Georgia, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia and the Japan External Trade Organization. He wanted to build a lasting symbol of the friendship between Japan and Georgia.

“This tower is my dream come through because of its symbol of the friendship between Georgia and Japan is so instrumental for the relationship between the two in future development,” he said at the Sept. 30 event.

He also noted the location of the peace bell and tower at the Carter Center is where the Freedom Farmers’ Market takes place year round on Saturdays.

“I’m aware that every weekend a farmers market is at this location,” he said. “My wish is to hear the bell ring with laughter and joy every week as the symbol of peace and friendship in the future.”

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.