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 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.)
The museum celebrates cultures from across Asia all year long. Learn more about our other Cultural Celebrations.
Click the links below to register for both of these virtual events:
New Year Storytelling (Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, 10–10:45 AM)
36th Annual Japanese New Year Bell Ringing Ceremony (Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, 11 AM–12:30 PM)
Fold an Origami Teapot
Create your own Kimono Doll Finger Puppet
Make a teamLab-inspired Chigiri-e
Kagami Kai’s Ozoni Soup (Japanese New Year mochi soup)
Storyteller Leta Bushyhead tells Celebrating the New Year in Japan: Jizo
Storyteller Jeff Byers tells The Magic Tea Kettle (Bunbuku Chagama)
Watch preparators install the Buddhist Bell
Battledore with “Seven Riches” design
Happy New Year greeting from long-time program partner and mochitsuki group Kagami Kai
Watch highlights from past Bell Ringing Ceremonies
Watch Japanese New Year Bell Ringing Ceremony: Finding Harmony
Read a digested version of A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto