Marking the passage of time and signaling new beginnings, the New Year is cause for celebration around the world. In Japan, the New Year is ushered in on Jan. 1 with celebrations taking place on New Year’s Eve the night before. In preparation for the holiday, people clean and decorate their homes, make food, and pay off debts. On New Year’s Eve, soba noodles and mochi soup (ozoni) are eaten and temples host their annual bell-ringing ceremonies just before midnight. As part of this tradition, the temple bell (bonsho) is rung 108 times to represent the 108 earthly sins collected over the course of the year. Learn about the tradition of ringing the temple bell in this description by Reverend Gengo Akiba of Kojin-an Zen Center.
For more than three decades, the Asian Art Museum has installed its Japanese temple bell on-site in preparation for the annual Bell Ringing Ceremony. (Read more about the bell, which was made by Tachibana Kyubei for Daienji Temple in Tajima province, Japan, in 1532.) Due to city-wide restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19, for the first time in 35 years we are unable to host this beloved tradition at the museum. Instead, we are presenting a virtual bell ringing ceremony from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home. This virtual program features longtime partners Reverend Gengo Akiba, Yoshie Akiba, and Eri Takahasi of Kojin-an Zen Center in Oakland. Register for this year’s virtual Bell Ringing Ceremony.
You can also register for a New Year Storytelling program for families, presented prior to the Bell Ringing Ceremony from from 10 to 10:45 a.m.
Click the links below to register for both of these virtual events:
New Year Storytelling (Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, 10–10:45 AM)
35th Annual Japanese New Year Bell Ringing Ceremony (Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, 11 AM–12:30 PM)
Kagami Kai’s Ozoni Soup (Japanese New Year mochi soup)