Temple bell at night
Photo: Hideki Sato/Pixabay

2021-2022 New Year’s Eve bell-ringing at Tokyo temples

Swing away your troubles and start the new year afresh with these traditional temple bell-ringing rituals

Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors
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Joya no kane is the traditional bell-ringing ceremony held across Japan on New Year’s Eve. Celebrating the passing of the old year while welcoming a new one, it sees temple bells rung 108 times, once for each of the worldly desires or anxieties central to Buddhism, starting in the old year and finishing right as the clock strikes midnight.

Some temples even invite people to participate in the ringing. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year, some temples are requiring bell-ringers to register in advance for the experience while others are limiting the practice to monks only. If you'd like to strike the bell to kickstart 2022, or you’re happy to just watch and listen, read on for our picks of the top Tokyo temples to visit for the joya no kane ceremony.

RECOMMENDED: Some Tokyo trains have extended service on New Year's Eve and we have the timetables.

Best places to ring the bell

  • Museums
  • Meguro

This Meguro temple enshrines 300 arhat statues, known as Meguro no Rakan-san. The total number of statues was once 536 but many have been destroyed over time. You can also visit the 3.5m-tall Jizo statue that bestows energy and courage to worshippers.

In order to ring the joya no kane, you’ll have to make a reservation by phone (03 3792 6751). The event is limited to 108 people and participation costs ¥1,000 (omamori charm included). You can ring the bell between 7pm and 8.30pm, but make sure to pick up your ticket at the temple office before heading over to the bell tower. Your reservation will be cancelled if you don’t show up before 8.20pm.

Note: the temple grounds are only open until 10pm this year.

Honzan Higashi Honganji Temple
  • Museums
  • Asakusa

Higashi Honganji Temple in Asakusa belongs to the school of Jodo Shinshu, also known as True Pure Land Buddhism. Despite numerous fires and earthquakes, the temple has survived after a series of relocation and reconstruction. Tea ceremonies and flower arrangement classes are held regularly at the temple’s memorial hall. 

To ring the joya no kane, you’ll have to make a reservation in advance from December 18 by phone (03 3843 9511), online, or at the temple’s main hall. Be quick: the event is free and limited to 108 visitors.

Ticket holders have to be at the temple by 11pm on December 31. You’ll listen to a short explanation and burn incense in front of the main hall before moving over to the bell tower. The bell-ringing takes place from 11.30pm and you’ll receive a special certificate for your participation.

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Araiyakushi Baishoin
  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Araiyakushi-mae

Lending its name to the nearby Seibu line station, this Shingon temple has stood in Nakano since the 16th century, although the current building is rather more modern than that. Said to have the power to cure eye illnesses, Araiyakushi is the place to get amulets and ema plaques customised for the purpose.

From 11.45pm until 2am you can ring the joya no kane. The first 108 visitos have to pay ¥1,000 (omamori charm included) to join the event. However, those participating later only pay ¥500.

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Koenji

People have been flocking to Myohoji since the Edo period (1603-1868). Known as a temple for yakuyoke (warding off evil), the grounds boast a number of historical structures which have been designated cultural properties either by the city or at the national level. The statues of the kongorikishi guardians, which flank the Nio-mon gate, are thought to have been donated by the fourth Tokugawa shogun, Ietsuna.

Only 100 people can partake in the joya no kane bell-ringing from midnight, so go line up early.

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Ikegami

Standing on a lush hill towering over the buildings around Ikegami Station, the imposing Ikegami Honmonji is built on the site where Nichiren, founder of the Buddhist sect of the same name, is said to have died in 1282. Climb the stone stairs from the south and you’ll arrive at the entrance of the enormous, beautiful main building, which was reconstructed in the 1960s. Don’t forget to check out the five-storey pagoda, a survivor of the World War II bombings and the oldest of its kind in the Kanto region.

The joya no kane will take place at midnight, with numbered tickets handed out to the first 300 visitors who arrive at the bell tower from 11pm. Participation is free.

  • Museums
  • Uguisudani

Founded in 1625, Kaneiji Temple is one of the two bodaiji temples of the Tokugawa family that ruled over Japan between 1600 and 1868. Six of the 15 Tokugawa shoguns are buried here.

To partake in the joya no kane ritual at Kaneiji Temple’s Konponchudo main hall, you’ll have to make an advance reservation by phone (03 3821 4440).

Best places to witness the ritual

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Asakusa

Sensoji Temple is dedicated to Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion. The temple's colossal vermillion Kaminarimon Gate welcomes millions of visitors year-round, however, it's most popular for hatsumode (first shrine/temple visit of New Year).

Wile waiting in line for your New Year's prayer along the Nakamise shopping street, which is decked out with New Year’s decorations and stalls selling seasonal memorabilia and souvenirs, you can listen to the joya no kane that will be rung at midnight by temple staff.

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Shiba-Koen

The main temple of the Buddhist Jodo sect in the Kanto area, Zojoji was built in 1393 and moved to its present location in 1598. The main hall has been destroyed three times by fire in the last century, hence the current building is actually a 1970s reconstruction. The most historic element is the Sangedatsumon main gate; dating back to 1605, it’s the oldest wooden structure in Tokyo. A mausoleum in the grounds contains the tombs of six Tokugawa shoguns. 

Even though tickets to actually ring the bell have already sold out, you can still head over to Zojoji Temple and witness the ceremony.

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Tsukiji

The Tokyo branch of the Nishi-Honganji temple in Kyoto, Tsukiji Honganji was established in Yokoyamacho near Asakusa in 1617, but relocated to Tsukiji after the temple went up in flames in the Great Fire of Meireki. Completed in 1934, the current South Asia-inspired architecture is the work of Chuta Ito, a former architecture professor at Tokyo University.

This year, the bell-ringing will be conducted by temple staff after the Buddhist service on New Year's Eve (in Japanese only), which is limited to 250 people who made a reservation in advance. However, you can still head to the temple and listen to the bell’s resonant tones.

Other ways to ring in the new year

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