What is Joya no Kane? Why 108? New Year’s Eve Bell in Japan
Have you heard of Joya no Kane? It’s written as 除夜の鐘 and it’s a traditional ceremony taken place on New Year’s Eve.
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What is New Year’s Eve Bell?
There are various activities and events on New Year’s Eve in Japan. What do you know about Japanese New Year’s Eve?
What Would YOU want to do if you were in Japan??
When talking about Japanese New Year’s Eve, Japanese would mention New Year’s Eve Bell or Joya no Kane (除夜の鐘). Is it a special Bell??
The answer is, YES it is.
Monks in temples ring the bell 108 times to get rid of Bonno (煩悩). Examples of Bonno include desires, anger, suspicion and obsession.
Why is it Rung 108 times?
Japanese Temples toll the bell 108 times on New Year’s Eve. Whys is it 108? There are several theories behind this number. I’m going to introduce 2 in this post.
Theory 1: Removing Bonno
The most famous theory is to get rid of Bonno. Bonno is unnecessary feelings of anger, desires, obsession and suspicion.
It’s said that there are 108 kinds of these feelings.
(108! That’s a lot!!)
Buddhists believe that those feelings distract people to be ultimately happy. By ringing the bell, Buddhists remove unwanted such feelings.
Theory 2: Shiku Hakku
Another theory is based on Shiku Hakku (四苦八苦). It means people have 8 unavoidable difficulties, such as being sick and dead, during lifetime.
In Japanese shi (四) means 4, ku (九, same pronunciation as 苦) means 9 and ha or hachi (八) means 8. Thus 4×9＋8×9＝108!!
This theory explains that the bell is rung 108 times to get rid of those 8 difficulties.
So that we can live happily without such pain.
Special Bells in Kyoto and Nara
Chion-in (知恩院) in Kyoto and Todaiji (東大寺) in Nara have huge bells. Their bells are too huge to ring by one person.
Thus 17 monks would help each other to ring them. They would start ringing the bell around 11p.m. on New Year’s Eve and reach to 107 before midnight. After midnight, the last bell would be rung to make the total of 108 times.
How to Enjoy Joya no Kane
Here are 2 ways you can enjoy New Year’s Eve bell in Japan.
The best way to enjoy Joya no Kane is to go visit temples. Japanese do visit temples to listen to the bell. Visit with your friends, partners or family to enjoy the pleasant sound of the bell.
If you are interested in ringing the bell, you might be able to do so in small temples. Famous temples may charge fee or request to get a ticket. Most of the temples start ringing the bell after 10p.m. and some starts after 11p.m. Go earlier if you want to try it!
Enjoy at Home
If you prefer to stay at home, you can watch the TV and listen to the New Year’s Eve Bell.
It’s quiet, slow and nostalgic for some people. Some people think about what had happened the year and how they want to spend time the coming year.
Japanese New Year’s Eve doesn’t have any fireworks. They rather spend quiet time on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
How to Toll the Bell
All Japanese Buddhist temples ring the bells on December 31st. During December 31st, they would ring the bell 107 times.
After midnight of January 1st, they would ring once to make it 108.
It’s believed that 107-time-tolls would get rid of unnecessary feelings to be happy. 108th would be hit to wish those feelings went away for the coming year.
If you want to experience authentic Japanese custom, you might want to visit a temple and listen to the bell. After New Year’s Eve Bell, you can stay in the temple and try Hatsumode.
Japanese New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve → Things to do for New Year’s Eve
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