PDD Geoguessr Challenge #13: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Ohara Isumi, Japan

The bell given to Duluth by Ohara. Photo by Matthew James.

Duluth has five sister cities. The next five Geoguessr challenges will take a look at them one by one. The first one in this mini-series has what I consider to be the most interesting story: Ohara, Japan.

Near the end of the war, the Japanese government ordered Ohara had to give up its temple bell so it could be melted down for metals to support the war effort. The war ended before the Japanese military could melt the bell and U.S. troops ended up taking possession of it as a war trophy. They put it on a ship to be sent back to the U.S. Specifically, the Cleveland-class light crusier USS Duluth. When it reached the United States, the best idea anyone had for what to do with the bell was to send it to Duluth.

It sat in Duluth City Hall from 1949 to 1951 until someone visiting from Tokyo recognized it, leading to a request from Ohara to have it back. So Mayor George D. Johnson gave it back. Forty years after the bell arrived in Duluth, Ohara was looking for a city outside of Japan to build a relationship with, and Duluth seemed like a logical choice. In 1993, Ohara made a new bell and gave it to Duluth, where it can now be found in the Japanese garden by Enger Park. The video below tells the complete story.

In the years since, the two cities have participated in numerous exchange programs. Many years ago, when in Japan, I made the three hour trip from Tokyo to see the bell. I only knew the name of the city and was travelling before smartphones. The person at the station ticket office was quite familiar with the story, welcomed me to the city and gave me directions to the bell. The area was a bit run down when I visited — I specifically remember clearing the dust off of the name of Duluth on the explanatory sign — but looking at the images on Google now, it seems like the whole area has been renovated and a newer, larger sign has been put up. But the relationship between Duluth and Ohara has become about more than just the bell. The video below talks about the ongoing connections between the two cities.

While the bell itself is not visible on Google Streetview, the rest of the city is. So for those who don’t have the opportunity to visit this sister city of Duluth in person, you can still visit some of its sites through this challenge.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #13: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Ohara Isumi, Japan

How to Play Geoguessr

GeoGuessr can be played on a laptop or desktop and on Android or IoS mobile devices with the GeoGuessr app. Just click on the link that fits how you play and create an account to start playing.

Every game consists of five locations based on a theme chosen by the game creator. You are shown a Streetview image stripped of all the informational labels that are normally overlayed onto the image. Unless the challenge specifically restricts it, you can move around and look for clues like street signs and business names to find out where you are. The image below shows a basic overview of the Geoguessr screen layout and controls.

Once you think you know the location — or are nearly out of time — you use the inset map to place your marker where you believe the round started. After you hit “Guess,” you will see how close you were to the correct location and how many points your guess earned. The closer you are to the location, the higher your score, with a maximum score of 5,000 points. On a map that covers a small area, like the Gary-New Duluth neighborhood, being off by a few blocks will cost you a lot of points. On a map that has locations from around the world, you will get nearly all the points just for finding the right city. The maximum error for a perfect score also changes by map size, but in general if you are within 50 feet (15 meters) you will always get the full 5,000 points.

Not often, but every now and then, GeoGuessr gets a little buggy. If the underlying Streetview imagery has changed since the game was made, sometimes it repeats the last round, gives a black screen, or doesn’t allow a guess to be made. If that happens, please let me know and I’ll update the challenge.

At the end of the five rounds, an overview screen shows your score for each round in addition to your guessing time and how far off you were from the correct location. The correct locations and your guesses are also shown on a map and you can click on any of the round numbers to review the locations. Additionally, the final screen in a challenge will show how you rank compared to the top scorers of the challenge. When choosing your user name, keep in mind that your user name and score per round will be visible to other players of the challenge.

If you have feedback on this challenge or ideas for future challenges, please share them in the comments below.

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