On December 31st, in most temples, most of which have big bells in Japan, preachers or people ring the bell with a giant wooden stick 108 times in total in the minutes (from about 23:50) leading up to midnight and New Year. It is said that 108 is the number of earthly desires and banging the bell stands for getting rid of these desires.
In Kyoto, which is a cultural and sightseeing capital in Japan, has many famous and historical temples. This results in attracting thousands of people to this city at this time (and mostly all year around). Some temples allow visitors to ring the bell one time each. For those who are interested in joining this activity (most people watch it and then pray), why not be part of it? In any case, if you will be here on December 31st, visit one of these temples, reflect on the past year and pray for a wonderful new year. The Subways, trains and some of the City Bus lines operate all night on December 31st. The following 4 temples are all historical and easily accessible when it comes to transportation.
Kenninji Temple in Gion District is the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto. The first 108 pairs (or small groups) can ring the bell. Numbered tickets for the activity are given from 22:00.
Although only preachers are allowed to ring it, the bell itself is worth checking out. It is 3.3 meters high, 2.8 meters diameters and weighs 70 tons. 17 preachers are involved in ringing the bell.
Kodaiji Temple was founded by, Nene, the wife of the General Hideyoshi Toyotomi, to mourn Hideyoshi’s death in 1606. The first 108 pairs (or small groups) can ring the bell. The numbered tickets are given out from 22:00.
This temple was tied to the royal family for a long time. For hundreds of years, the leader of this temple was limited to a member of royal family or a court noble. Except for the first peal, people are allowed to ring the bell on a first come first serve basis.
For more fun and useful information, which will make your Kyoto Travel more memorable, exciting and stress-free, please check our Kyoto e-Guidebook.