The end of the old and beginning of the new year is very important for Japanese people. Usually people visit their family members to celebrate this special time of year. At New Year’s, more specifically from January 1st – 3rd, people go to a shrine to make a wish for the new year. And on New Year’s Eve, many people go out and visit temples to experience the Joya no Kane, where people/preachers/monks at temples ring a big bell 108 times.
For those who plan to come to Kyoto or Japan during this time of the year, it could be nice to experience this traditional event.
As mentioned before, on New Year’s Eve, the bells at many temples are rung 108 times. Why 108 times? There are a couple of possible reasons. But the most likely one is that, according to Buddism, there are 108 earthly desires and it is possible to dispel them by hitting the bell for each one. As a result, people can start the New Year with a fresh mental attitude. And as explained in “How Many Temples/Shrines Are In Kyoto?“, there are countless temples in Kyoto. And many temple allow visitors to ring the bell including the popular spots such as Kiyomizudera Temple. However, many people want to do this, which is understandable, therefore popular temples usually provide tickets to avoid confusion and trouble. As long as it is not a problem to visit ahead of time to get a ticket, and again on New Year’s Eve, this option is suitable. However, for those who prefer to simply visit a temple, wait a line and ring a bell, these popular spots are not the best idea. In that case, visit one of the following temples instead.
Note that although they might not be as popular as Kiyomizudera Temple and Nanzenji Temple, they are still prestigious and famous. So it is better to visit at least 30 minutes before midnight.
Access: 5 min walk from Imadegawa Station (Subway Karasuma)
Access: Take Hankyu Kyoto Line and switch to the train bound for Arashiyama at Katsura station. Get off at Hankyu Arashiyama. Walk 20 mins or take a taxi.
Access: From Keage Station (Subway Tozai) walk 15 mins. Eikando is located north of Nanzenji Temple.