Translated by Verity Lane
Joya no Kane - New Year's Eve Bell In Japan
Written by k_yamamuro
Joya no Kane is the custom of ringing a temple bell on New Year's Eve in Japan. Practiced at temples throughout the country, priests and temple visitors ring this symbolic bell 108 times to usher in the New Year. Learn more about this practice and where to see it and try it for yourself.
Joya no Kane - Ringing the New Year's Bell at Midnight
Photo by Pixta
Joya no Kane refers to the bell that is rung at a temple on the night of New Year's Eve. Joya is a way of saying "New Year's Eve" in Japanese.
108 Bell Rings to Welcome the New Year
The bell is usually rung 107 times108 times. The number is representative of the 108 worldly desires(*1) that a person experiences throughout the course of their entire life. The final 108th strike carries with it the meaning of not worrying about last year's problems.
*1 The concept for 108 worldly desires originates from the teachings of Buddhism, and refers to anxiety and hardship caused by material wants.
In Japan, on the night of New Year's Eve (usually around 23:00), many temples across the country ring their bells. Listening to the sound of the bells while waiting for the start of the New Year is a tradition that has existed in Japan since ancient times.
Picture from Todaiji: Pass The Time At Nara’s Great Buddha Hall
Depending on the temple, some places may even let shrine visitors take turns in ringing the bell; it is advised to show up early if you want to do this, as some temples will issue tickets in order of visitors arriving.
Nara's Todaiji Temple and Chion-in in Kyoto are known to have bells so large that it takes the combined force of 17 monks to ring them. They are very famous places to see and hear the bell being rung.
The ceremony ends after 108 strikes so there are times when lots of early visitors arriving and participating can cause it to finish sooner than expected. Please try to arrive ahead of time to see the festivities!
During the night, the temple may serve beverages like sake or amazake, and some larger temples may even serve food.