Nov. 16, 2023 UPDATE
Joya-no-kane (Bell Ringing on New Year’s Eve)- 除夜の鐘 -
Chion-in is close to Yasaka shrine and Maruyama park, and easy to access. However, as it will be overflowing with visitors on the day, you should have enough time for travel.
English is available on official homepage
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Period31st December, every year
Story & Recommendation
Bell rings 108 times, Kyoto’s most famous New Year’s event
On December 31st, New Year’s Eve, the annual Joya no Kane event is held at temples in Japan. At this event, temple bells will be tolled 108 times—starting on the 31st and continuing over the course of an entire day. The number 108 represents the number of earthly desires that afflict and pain the human heart, and it is said that these earthly desires vanish one after another upon hearing each of the Joya no Kane’s event’s 108 rings. By doing so, we will be purified as we start the new year. As it is home to numerous temples, many places in Kyoto hold Joya no Kane events. However, the most famous one is held at Chion-in. At Chion-in, 17 monks can be seen working together to ring a massive, three-meter tall bell. As many visitors show up on the day to catch a glimpse of the powerful bell ringers, Joya no Kane could even be considered a winter attraction in Kyoto. We highly recommend starting a refreshing new year with the sound of low ringing bells.
Daibonsho bell (great temple bell)
Chion-in’s temple bell is over three meters tall, weighs in approximately 70 tons, and is famous for its enormous size. Alongside Todai-ji temple in Nara and Houkou-ji temple in Kyoto, it is known as one of Japan’s three great temple bells, and has been registered as an important cultural property. It is surprising that this large bell is rung 108 times in one-minute intervals.
Unique bell-ringing method
As the Daibonsho bell is massive, 17 monks work as one to ring the bell one time after another. First, the other 16 monks take hold of a thick rope called "Oyazuna", and pull the wooden bell hammer in time with the call of the ringer. Afterward, as illustrated in the picture, dangling from the wooden bell hammer, the bell ringer uses their whole body to toll the bell. This bell-ringing method is unique to Chion-in.
On December 27th, bell-ringing practice is held just like the actual day, starting at 2 pm. Because the bell-ringing method is unusual and difficult, the rehearsals are a must. You can observe it as these rehearsals are open to the public, and get purified of worldly desires a little earlier.