Around the turn of the year, 30 minutes before midnight of New Year’s Eve, a temple bell is struck 108 times.  It is calles 除夜の鐘 (Joya-no-kane, literally “the bells on New Year’s Eve”), one of the annual events practiced in the Japanese Buddhist.

Image: Joya-no-kane

The bell is struck 108 times.  This number comes from three sources, namely the number of our worldly desires, the yearly events of the traditional Japanese calendar and 四苦八苦 (Shiku-hakku, meaning extreme difficulty).

  1. The number of worldly desires: 6 x 3 x 2 x 3 = 108.  The bell is struck to remove 108 evil desires from each of us.  We have six organs which cause evil desires and indecision: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.  Each of them has three conditions: comfortable, uncomfortable and in-between, which makes 18 types.  Each of the 18 types has two states: clean and dirty, which makes 36 types.  Each of them is allocated in three lives: previous life, current life and future life, which makes 108 desires.
  2. Calendars: 12 + 24 + 72 = 108.  The bell is struck to count the calendar events.  A year consists of 12 months.  The traditional lunisolar calendar has 24 points that matches a particular astronomical event of signifies some natural phenomenon.  Another lunisolar calendar has 72 points dividing each of 24 points by three.
  3. 四苦八苦 (Shiku-hakku, literally “four and eight kind of suffering, meaning extreme difficulties): 4×9+8×9=108.  The bell is struck to remove Shiku-hakku.  It is made from the combination of the sound of each letter.  四 (Shi, 4), 苦 (Ku, 9), 八 (Ha, 8) and 苦 (Ku, 9).


Joya-no-kane of Inkuji temple, Kyoto

Uploaded on 31 Dec 2011 by TORIOize