January 3, 2009

Chion-in Temple Enormous Bell New Year’s Eve

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    


Filed under Featured, Japan, Night Shots, Photography, Video