Chion-in Temple Enormous Bell New Year’s Eve

January 3, 2009 · Print This Article

Totally by accident, Aya and I were able to witness one of the most special New Year’s Eve traditions in Japan–the ringing in of the new year by 17 monks at Kyoto’s Choin-in Temple.  This was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.  The bell the monks were ringing is the largest in Japan, weighing in at nearly 80 tons and having a diameter of some 2.7 meters.  It’s also very old, being cast way back in 1633 C.E.

Of course there was a huge crowd wanting to see this.  It was like a rock concert really, the pushing was constant and at times you were even swept off your feet and had no choice but to flow where the tide of people took you.  Luckily, at the very end I was able to get to the barrier fence and get a few unobstructed shots.  Aya managed to get some steady video with the Xacti HD700 as well.

The monks chanted while ringing the bell.  First they would all chant at a barely audible level, then the main monk, the one with his back to the bell, would give out a cry and the other monks would chant louder and pull quicker (although they seemed to be making little real effort), then they would all in unison say sorei and the main monk would literally fall over backwards pulling the fulcrum rope and the ram would thud into the bell bringing forth a lingering ringing resonance.


It was an epic crush of people, like a punk rock concert, so difficult to get any shots off of any kind This was as close as I could get to the monks. The moment of impact, sorei!!
I liked how the ropes went crazy once the tension on them was released.  Like crazy spaghetti! This bell was cast in 1633 C.E. and weighs 80 tons!  It's the largest in Japan. It takes 17 monks to ring the great bell, alhtough these guys didn't seem to be making much effort.
I can't tell you how annoying it is to have a cell phone ruin an otherwise nice photo A battering ram worthy of being compared to the might Grond The network of ropes holding the battering ram were quite complex.
The entrance to grand Chion-in Temple in Kyoto, Japan    



16 Responses to “Chion-in Temple Enormous Bell New Year’s Eve”

  1. on January 3rd, 2009 5:11 PM

    Great pics though on a couple of them your website address obscures the pic. Thanks for sharing (-:


    Jason Collin Reply:

    Thanks Loco.

    About the watermarks…since I started selling some of my photos, I’ve also started taking more measures to protect my photos that are posted online. I agree sometimes watermarks can be distracting, but it’s a standard and necessary practice that most photographers use when posting photos online.

    The lead photo can be seen without watermark in the photo gallery.

  2. on January 4th, 2009 9:46 AM

    I liked how the monks seemed to be saying ??????? even though I know that’s not what they were saying. That ringing bell could make for some nice sound clips.

    Jason Collin Reply:

    It’s true Ben, the expressions on the monks’ faces was very nonchalant, but I guess that’s part of being a monk. The 16 pulling the ropes that were facing the bell really looked like it took no power to do. Maybe it was a result of all the pulleys or something? The one monk with his back to the bell, however, did use a lot of force to swing the ram.

    Ben Reply:

    That’s strange, the Japanese characters didn’t appear. Is UTF-8 turned on as your encoding scheme for the blog? Maybe the monks were just waiting to go to bed after that?

    Jason Collin Reply:

    UTF-8 is turned on for my WP database, and I even went into myPHPadmin and manually changed everything from the Latin_swedish encoding to UTF-8, so I don’t know how else to try and get Chinese/kanji to display.

    Any tips? A plugin perhaps?

    Ben Reply:

    I think it has something to do with this wpAjax response plugin. I’m not exactly sure what the problem is with it, but I would check to see if there is a table for it that its’ encoding is set to UTF8 and if there isn’t, then check the plugin author’s homepage to see if anyone else has had this problem. Just to be sure it wasn’t me, let me try some more 日本語 here. Ok, well whatever you did seems to have fixed it!

  3. on January 5th, 2009 1:06 AM

    cool pictures like always. I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

  4. on January 5th, 2009 6:12 AM

    Amazing how they were able to lift the 80 ton bell back in 1633.

  5. on January 5th, 2009 6:57 PM

    Very nice footage – please tell Aya she did a great job.

    My Xacti has languished in the cupboard since I got it last year, but your post has inspired me to break it out and see what it can do!

    Ben Reply:

    Now that would be cool! Though I imagine you have to drop your aperture by a full stop or so because of all that bright snow. I know my Xacti HD800 has a snow setting, but I haven’t tried it out yet. Might get a chance to put it to use this weekend.

    Jason Collin Reply:

    My Xacti has been languishing quite a bit too since I got my Nikon D80 back in August, so I have to make an effort to bring it. Luckily Aya is often a willing camera woman. I’ll pass on the complement to her, thanks!

    And it would be cool to hear the sounds of the mountain summits you climb to, as well as the crunch of the snow.

    I’d be interested in seeing like a kind of time lapse video of how you actually dig out a snow cave for sleeping in, etc.

    Chris ( Reply:

    OK, it’s a deal. I’m off to Nagano this weekend, guiding a group snowshoeing round Togakushi – the Xacti will come along too!

    Jason Collin Reply:

    Sweet…looking forward to the video then. Snowshoeing sounds like it would make for naturally humorous video footage!

  6. Dennis
    on June 21st, 2009 8:31 PM

    Are you descended from Rapael Collin who taught western style (impressionist) painting to the early Japanese Artists who traveled to Paris in the early 20th century?

    Jason Collin Reply:

    I am not sure. It would be cool if I was though.