Hatsumoude 1 - Joya no kane

So, for Hatsumoude (visiting a temple around New Year) this year, we decided on a little Joya no Kane (ringing the temple bell ceremony), which takes place at all temples at midnight on New Year's Eve. The bells are tolled 108 times, which corresponds to the number of evil desires people suffer from in this life. Tolling the bell rids us of our passions and purifies us ready for the coming year. Okay...

Anyway, our local temple is less than a kilometre's walk from our house, so we all wrapped up in wool and fleece (complete with Christmas scarves and ear-warmers) and strolled up there together. Despite it's proximity, this was the first time we'd taken the family there on New Year's Eve. There were a lot of people there, and we were worried we might be too late; that we wouldn't be in the first 108 people and get our shot. It turns out though, that at our temple, everyone can ring the bell, regardless of the number. Again, okay...

The whole thing was great though. There were lots of monks and helpers in attendance, organizing and guiding everyone through the process, and there was a warm friendly atmosphere pervading the whole event, not least next to the big brazier set up by the food tents. Groups of folk stood in groups clutching there bowl of hot ramen or plate of tasty gyoza, and of course cup of sake, chatting animatedly about the cold and the holidays or catching up on family and local news. A real sense of tradition and, more importantly for me, community. I was made to feel welcome. I felt welcome. And with my family, even when not next to the fire, I felt warm.









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