SAN FRANCISCO — On Sunday, Dec. 30, the Asian Art Museum marks the close of 2018 and welcomes 2019 with its annual Japanese New Year Bell-Ringing Ceremony, inviting members of the public to reflect upon the passing year and literally ring in the new year.
Now celebrating its 33rd year and following a New Year’s tradition practiced for centuries, a 2,100-pound, 16th-century Japanese bronze bell — originally from a temple in Tajima Province and now part of the museum’s permanent collection — will be struck 108 times by museum visitors to curb the 108 mortal desires (bonno) that, according to Buddhist belief, torment humankind.
The event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Doors open to the general public at 10 a.m. NOTE: Although the ceremony is usually held on Dec. 31, the museum will be closed on that date this year.
Zen Buddhist priest Gengo Akiba Roshi will conduct a blessing and lead participants in this inspiring ceremony, which will include a purification ritual and chanting of the Buddhist Heart Sutra.
Rev. Akiba will begin the bell-ringing, and participants may then take turns ringing the bell to leave behind any unfortunate experiences, regrettable deeds or ill luck from the previous year, and herald the start of a prosperous new year. Each toll is struck after the reverberations from the preceding toll have dissipated. In Japan, the last toll traditionally coincides with the first few seconds of the new year.
The event has gotten more popular with every year (thousands participate), and it is recommended that the public arrive no later than 12 p.m. for the ceremony. Every effort will be made to allow all visitors an opportunity to participate in this ceremony.
Museum members may attend an earlier ceremony starting at 9:30 a.m., with doors opening at 9 a.m.
Museum visitors wishing to participate will be assigned numbered tickets on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10 a.m. in South Court; 108 groups of up to six people will be assembled to strike the bell. No advance reservations will be accepted. Hands-on art activities will also be offered in the education studios during this time.
The cost is free with museum admission.
Support for the ceremony is provided by The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation. Cultural celebrations are made possible by Kaiser Permanente and Bank of America.
The museum is located at 200 Larkin St. in San Francisco’s Civic Center. Regular hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Upcoming events include Omochitsuki for Families on Saturday, Jan. 12. For more information, visit www.asianart.org.