Joya no Kane—Temple Bell on New Year’s Eve
Count Down the Japanese Way in Osaka
Already, 2019 is coming to an end and the beginning of a new year is approaching.
Each culture has its own tradition for welcoming the New Year. In Japan, it is customary to listen to Joya no Kane, tolling of temple bell on New Year’s Eve. The gongs of the bell on a quiet night are remarkably solemn and mystic.
Take Osaka Metro on New Year’s Eve and go experience this Japanese tradition!
When and What Is Joya no Kane?
People of all (or no) faiths visit temples all over Japan on New Year’s Eve.
Joya no Kane begins ringing shortly before midnight and continues into the New Year. It doesn’t ring just once, but it rings 108 times!
The reason for striking the bell 108 times has roots in Japanese Buddhism. 108 is said to be the number of earthly desires—evil passions that mislead, trouble, and torment people. With each strike of the gong, you’re cleansed of these sins.
Another theory behind the number 108 is about removing “shiku hakku (四苦八苦),” a 4-character phrase that means unavoidable pain. In Japanese, shiku sounds like numbers 4 and 9, and hakku sounds like 8 and 9. A quick calculation of these numbers—shiku (4×9=36) PLUS hakku (8×9=72)—brings you to 108.
Traditionally, listening to the gongs and watching monks around the country strike the large temple bell on TV or in person were all people did each year. However, some temples now provide opportunities for people to strike the bell themselves. Wouldn’t that be a cool way to count down to the New Year?!
Osaka Metro will get you to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Osaka Metro trains will operate every 30 minutes throughout the night on New Year’s Eve, after the last train on December 31 through the first train on January 1. (New Tram will run every 10 to 20 minutes.) Trains of other Kansai railway companies will also be in operation all night. Do check their timetable beforehand because the number of trains or operating lines may be limited.
Here’re a few temples where you can strike the bell yourself.
Shitennoji Temple is said to have been built more than 1,400 years ago. There are three bell towers within its properties and the first 108 people get to ring the bell. Go early to obtain a numbered ticket which will be distributed at 11pm. At 11:30pm, the first bell will be struck and amazake—a sweet fermented rice drink—will be served to 1,000 people (first come, first served).
Even if you are not one of the first 108 people to strike Joya no Kane, they will continue to let visitors ring the temple bell until around 3am to invite good luck and happiness in the New Year.
Kita Mido Temple
Osaka’s main street, Midosuji (literally “Mido street”) Boulevard was named after Kita Mido Temple that hosts a grand Joya-kai, a New Year’s Eve event. After the last service of the year is held at 11pm, visitors can ring the temple bell. Other activities will follow, and at 6am on January 1, Gantan-kai—to celebrate the beginning of the year—commences.
Outside the City Center
If you want to go outside of the city center, Dainenbutsu-ji Temple (大念佛寺) in Hirano ward is another spot that offers the last service of the year and a nice Joya no Kane experience. Dainenbutsu-ji is said to be the first Buddhist invocation dojo in Japan, and its main hall is the largest wooden structure in Osaka Prefecture. Visitors will be able to ring the temple bell and also enjoy sake served from a sake barrel as well as sweet red bean soup on New Year’s Eve.
Look over the past year as the temple bell solemnly rings and welcome a happy New Year at a Japanese temple!
[Access] About 4 mins walk from Exit 4 at Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka Station.
About 9 mins walk from Exit 17 at Tennoji Station.
[Hours] April-September 8:30-16:30 (8:00-17:00 on the 21st of every month)
October-March 8:30-16:00 (8:00-16:30 on the 21st of every month except Oct.)
Rokuto-do 8: 30-18: 00 (8: 00-18: 00 on the 21st of every month)
※ The last reception of the garden is 30 minutes ago
[Closed] Open daily (the garden has holidays)
[Access] About 2 mins walk from Exit 2 at Hommachi Station.
About 7 mins walk from Exit 13 at Yodoyabashi Station.
[Access] About 8 mins walk from Exit 2 at Hirano Station.