Located near the Friendship Bell at the edge of Shelter Island, "The Girl in Red Shoes" statue holds a great amount of cultural history. It is an artistic piece shared by both Yokohama and San Diego, with each of these cities having their own version of "The Girl in Red Shoes." In the hands of the bronze sculpture, she holds a rose and a carnation. The rose represents Yokohama, Japan, while the carnation represents San Diego, California. Japan's version can be found in Yamashita park in Yokohama.
The idea for the statue itself was based on the nursery rhyme, 赤い靴 translated to "Red Shoes,” which was written by the Japanese poet Ujō Noguchi in 1922. It was then crafted into a song by Nagayo Motoori. Both the poem and song lyrics focus on a mother at the Yokohoma pier. She watches as her little girl, wearing red shoes, leaves aboard a vessel with foreigners. The mother states that she will think of her daughter every time she sees red shoes and waits for the day when her daughter will come home. The poem and song are well-known in Japan. They were inspired by the true story of Iwasaki Kimi. Living a tragic life, Kimi was left in an orphanage and died at the age of nine.
"The Girl in Red Shoes" was gifted to the Port of San Diego to commemorate the 150th anniversary since the opening of the Port of Yokohama, Japan. It represents friendship and the bonds that existed between these two countries over the decades. This artwork also symbolizes the intimate relationship that has existed between these two sister cities throughout the years. Sister cities are formed through social or legal agreement, in which both cities promote cultural and commercial ties.
"The Girl in Red Shoes" has something to teach, regardless of where you come from. It reminds the viewer on the sacredness and fragility of life, as well as the universal idea of friendship that exists regardless of time and space. Make sure to pay your respects at this artistic symbol of peace and understanding.
Cover Image: "Port of San Diego Public Art" by Port of San Diego via Flickr.