Throughout the grounds of Selby Gardens, statues, sculptures and historic artifacts are woven among the outdoor gardens. Many of these pieces are gifts given to Selby Gardens from families of longtime supporters of this institution. Other elements like this bell were added to the landscape simply as ornamental pieces without much backstory, or so we thought until a letter from Japan recently arrived on the desk of our CEO.
“When an envelope appeared with a return address of Japan on it, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens. “Inside though, was the most amazing letter and photos from a monk at a Buddhist temple.”
In the letter we learned about a young woman from Japan, Mami Teramura, who had visited Selby Gardens recently while on a break from studying at the University of Michigan. She found the bell near the koi pond and read the name of the temple and the address on the surface of the bell and discovered it was from her home town. When Mami returned to Japan, she told her father about the bell, who happened to know the monk’s son through business.
The letter from the 80-year- old Mr. Takumyo Anjiki went on to tell the history of the bell, which was previously unknown at the Gardens. The 117-year- old bell is called a Kansho, and it is rung at the opening of Buddhist temple ceremonies. The bell was taken from the temple by the Japanese government during World War II to be melted down to create weapons. Thankfully, the bell wasn’t ever melted, and was returned to the temple, but Mr. Anjiki says that the bell started to make strange sounds when it was hit after being returned, so the temple replaced it and kept the old bell in storage. It remained there until an antiques dealer visited the temple and purchased the bell. In 2010, Selby Gardens purchased the bell online, bringing it to Sarasota.
“I was so moved by Mr. Anjiki’s story,” Rominiecki said. “He closes his letter by calling the rediscovery of the temple’s bell a miracle and he views the bell as a symbol of peace between our two countries. He calls this link between his temple and the Gardens part of a destined thread called “Goen,”” and writes that “goen” is one of the most valuable things in the lives of Buddhist monks.”
Guests at the Gardens are invited to ring the bell from the Kakujo-ji Temple during your visits, as well as explore the grounds to find other unique pieces of art.
We look forward to seeing you in the Gardens!