The New Year holiday in Japan symbolizes spiritual renewal and a new start. People visit temples and shrines to pray for good fortune for the year ahead, and sometimes stay up to see the first sunrise of the year. Nikko's famous World Heritage shrines and temples, along with its beautiful mountains and parks, are ideal places to celebrate Japan's New Year’s traditions. Be sure to dress warmly and arrive early to avoid traffic congestion.
Sounding the Temple Bells
Temples in Japan have a large bronze bell called a bonsho. The deep, penetrating sound is believed to have the power to stop suffering and provide serenity. At the start of the year, Buddhist monks and visitors ring temple bells 108 times to purge people of their 108 earthly desires. In Nikko, the sound of bells resonates from the town’s many temples at the start of the year during bell-ringing ceremonies. Visitors gather at temples around Nikko from 11:00 p.m. on New Year's Eve to have a chance to ring the bell at midnight. At Nikkosan Rinnoji Temple, Nikkosan Chuzenji Temple, and Nikkosan Onsenji Temple, the bells ring through the precincts on New Year’s Day (midnight on January 1).