JOYA-NO-KANE: Ringing in the new year!



2022.12.29 (Thu)

By Dan Lewis, long-term Japan resident & outdoor activity enthusiast.

One hundred and eight. That’s the number of times Buddhist temples ring the temple bell at the end of the year. The “Joya-no-Kane” is an annual, year-end event held to reflect on the past year, express gratitude, and welcome the new year.

The bell is said to approximate the sound and voice of Buddha, ringing out to pray for the happiness of people in this life and the next. New Year's Eve bells are rung at midnight from New Year's Eve to New Year's Day. At temples that ring 108 times, the 107th bell will ring on New Year's Eve, and the final bell will ring in the New Year.

As a number, 108 is surely easy to understand, but the reason behind it is not so clear. There are various theories as to the origin, ranging from the number of worldly desires humans experience, to a complicated number of seasonal classifications. What is clear, however, is the strong ringing of the bells from Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, and Kaneiji Temple in Ueno Park.

While most who visit these popular spots for ringing in the new year limit their celebrations and worship to mostly observing, a few lucky celebrants, who have made a donation to the temple, will have the opportunity to ring the bell. If you are one of the lucky few, just follow these instructions:

First, walk up to the bell and bow to it before striking it. Pull back the string attached to the bell and place it on the bell. Finally, while bowing once again, remember in your heart your wish and gratitude to Buddha.

Enjoy New Year’s Eve in Taito City, and may the sound of the New Year’s Bells resonate deeply in your heart!

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