Peace Pole Origins
From prehistoric times on, people have stood stones up on one end as monuments of one kind or another. Japan has an on-going tradition of vertical stones with text engraved in them. So in 1955 in Japan when Masahisa Goi wanted to make public statements about peace, that was the tradition he followed. Since then PeacePoles have been planted on sites that include the tomb of Confucius in China, the pyramids of Giza, and the magnetic North Pole in Canada.
The peace pole above right is in Kamakura, Japan.
American historical context
In the United States there also is precedent for erecting a pole to make a statement, the "Liberty Poles" (links to a page on this site) of the Post-Revolutionary War Period that were erected in large numbers to protest a new tax. This was people independently erecting posts to make a collective statement.
The following information is based on information submitted by David Crockett Williams, Jr., UN50th Global Peace Walk Coordinator and Global Peace Movement Organizer.
An historical example of the idea of Peace Poles can be seen in the story of King Ashoka, a forgotten sovereign who was one of the most powerful Emperors of India (269-232 BC, capital at Patna). Ashoka had conquered the whole subcontinent through warfare. His empire stretched from Orissa to the Kyber Pass and from the Himalayas to beyond Madras. After the bloodshed and horror of his campaign in Orissa, Ashoka was willing to listen to thoughts about Peace expressed to him by a Buddhist Monk. It is said that he then renounced warfare, embraced Peace, and built columns and pillars, not unlike peace poles, and other peace monuments, many of which were carved and inscribed with words about Peace. It can be hard to separate history from myth, but some say that this lead to over 500 years of peace and even 500 years without crime or violence. To whatever extent that might be true, he is spoken of as a visionary who implemented moral reform on a large scale, not through sacrifice and suffering and persecution, as was common in history, but through conviction and example.
During the 1600s and 1700s, British scholars of Indian culture attributed Ashoka's pillars and columns to Alexander the Great. But then in 1834 monuments in three different locations (Bihar, Delhi, and Allahabad) were discovered to have identical inscriptions. When these were deciphered, Western scholars became more aware of Ashoka's role. They came to regard him as one of the nobler rulers in Indian history. Some say that, like Gandhi, Ashoka's message eventually became one of non-violence, reverence for life in all forms, and tolerance for people of other religions.