108 strikes of Joya no kane rang by 17 monks
Text: Yumi Oki
Joya no kane is a ritual ringing the temple bell 108 times to bring the old year to an end and usher in the new year. One of the famous such bell in Kyoto is in Chion-in, which also appear on live casting on the night of New Year's eve. This bell is valued by the local people, that many feels they must start the new year with this ring.
This huge bell of a size, 3.3 meter high, 2.8 meter diameter, 70 tons in weight, is considered one of Japan's major temple bells along with Houkouji Temple in Kyoto and Todaiji Temple of Nara. The bell was created in 1636, and the bell tower in 1678.
The bell sets quietly throughout most of the year except for the very special occasions to be rang, the Gyokidaie Ceremony commemorating the death of Honen in April and on the New Year. The bell is rang with by 17 monks, 1 holding the main rope almost in an upside-down position to strike the bell with great force and 16 others holding subordinate ropes to hold back the huge bell so that it won't make unnecessary strike. A perfect team work is needed in striking 108 times. The Joya no kane is offered for striking to the public at some temples, but here it is only done by the monks.
The audience glance at the powerful sight of the monks striking such a huge bell, 108 times with 1 minute intervals each time, slowly enjoying the old year passing by.
Chion-in will be very crowded during this ritual, with around 300 million to 500 million people coming every year. A long line will start from the Sanmon gate leaving not much space to enjoy the sound of the bell for some people.
For those who wishes to stay away from the crowd but wants to hear the sound of the bell with your own ears, the test ringing on December 27 will be a great chance. There will be many people as well, but not as much as on the night of the eve.
More than 20 monks will gather for the test ring. Some new, some making a great sound and some may not. Each monks are allowed to strike twice and the 17 monks making a better sound will be chosen to be on the real stage. The test ring will be held from 14:00. Early visit will have a better chance to view from a good spot, maybe about an hour in advance. People will start leaving after half hour so going for the late strikes could be another plan.
ADDRESS: 400 Rinka-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto (map)
Joya no kane:
20:00 Open gate for public
22:40 Start striking the temple bell
23:00 Close gate
*Visitors can only observe, no participation for striking the bell
★Next spot introduced by Junya Yamamura's TRAVEL IDEA 'New Year's Eve in Kyoto' is Chourakuji Temple