Joyano kane (除夜の鐘)

Joyano kane means striking a bronze bell (temple bell) around 12:00 am on New Year's Eve (December 31).

Joyano kane is struck one hundred and eight times. There are various theories on the reason why the bell is struck one hundred and eight times.

The number, one hundred and eight, represents human Bonno (earthly desires); each of rokkon (the six senses), which are eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind, has three types of senses, Ko (sense to feel good), Aku (sense to feel bad), Hei (sense to feel indifferent), thus producing eighteen kinds of senses in total; then each of the eighteen senses has two types of feeling, Jo (pure) and Sen (dirty), making thirty six types; these thirty six types are multiplied by three, representing the previous life, the current life and future life, to make one hundred and eight.

Twelve, which is the number of months (calendar), added by twenty-four, which comes from Nijushi sekki (days that divide a year in the old lunar calendar into twenty-four equal sections), and by seventy-two, which comes from Shichijuni-ko (72 divisions of the solar year), makes one hundred and eight and represents one year.

Another theory says that 108 means to get rid of Shikuhakku (hardship): in Japanese, four, nine, eight is pronounced 'shi', 'ku', 'ha(tchi)', respectively, and 4X9+8X9 could be pronounced Shikuhakku and 4X9+8X9 is equal to 108.

It is customary to join your hands in prayer before striking a bell. One hundred and seven should be struck in the old year (on December 31) and the last strike should be made in the New Year (on January 1). However, they start striking the bell as soon as the New Year starts on an exceptional basis in Taiseki-ji Temple.

Normally a bell in a temple should be struck 108 times not only on the New Year's Eve but also every day, in the morning and in the evening. However, the number of striking a bell is shortened in everyday llife and the bell is struck only eighteen times a day.

[Original Japanese]