The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Ringing In The New Year

Welcomed in the new year at a local shrine with 108 bell chimes.

108 is supposed to be the number of desires and delusions we are trapped in as human beings that keep us away from the total enlightenment of the Buddha and stuck in the endless cycle of reincarnation and suffering so on New Years Eve people ring the large temple bells, like the one pictured above, to symbolically cleanse  themselves of these states.

I don’t follow any religion and believe in no gods here, there or anywhere but I like the philosophy of Buddhism and love the rituals of most faiths. Many are colourful and energetic, great fun to join and often to photograph. But this one is different. It was a freezing night, the kids were tired and the chance to take pictures limited by time, family duties and obstructive architecture yet there is something wonderful about ringing in the new year this way in Japan: the temple bell has a exotic and mysterious sound that adds something deeper and more thoughtful to the change of the year here than most in my country (and for many people here to be honest) usually give it.

I don’t know if I was cleansed of any desires, certainly I went home to tick-off a few more in my list before bed with yet more alcohol and good food but I did feel very alive as I walked home: the stars were out; the frost crackled underfoot; my son’s hand held mine tight and warm as it poked-out from his overlong sleeves and the doleful toll of the temple bell could be heard echoing out into the night, even several streets away, sparking magic and mission into the darkness.

A good experience for sure. Hope your New Year was equally wonderful.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Damon

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