Ringing in the New Year is taken literally by Hawaii’s many Buddhists, who invite visitors to join them in traditional bell-ringing ceremonies on Dec. 31.
Throughout the islands, followers of Buddha will gather to welcome 2016 by striking their temple bells 108 times.
“In Buddhism, it’s said we have 108 shortcomings,” Bishop Kenjun Kawawata of Honolulu’s Higashi Hongwanji Mission told me. “That is the significance. It is a Japanese tradition.”
Members of the mission [1685 Alaneo St., Honolulu, (808) 531-9088] will take turns ringing the bell following a New Year’s Eve service that begins at 5 p.m. Thursday.
A similar service will get underway at 11:30 p.m. at Jodo Mission of Hawaii [1429 Makiki St., Honolulu, (808) 949-3995].
Like Higashi Hongwanji, Jodo invites visitors to take part in the traditional ceremony.
“To ring the bell 108 times signifies the dispelling of 108 evil passions which all human beings have,” Jodo temple secretary Ryan Ozawa explained on the website. “Japanese people call that night ‘Joya.’ ‘Joya’ means the very night when we should try to dispel all evil things in our lives.”
“When we listen solemnly to the sounds of the bell in the silent midnight, we reflect in ourselves, and have a feeling of deep meditation,” he added.
Beyond Oahu, travelers can attend services on other islands as well. Here’s a sample of temples where the bells will ring:
Hawaii Island: 9 p.m. at Honpa Hongwanji Mission, 398 Kilauea Ave., Hilo, (808) 961-6677.
Kauai: 10 p.m. at Kapaa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, 4-1170 Kuhio Hwy., Kapaa, (808) 822-4667.
Maui: 11:45 p.m. at Rinzai Zen Mission, 120 Alawai Rd., Paia, (808) 579-9921.
Given Hawaii’s large population of Japanese immigrants and their descendants, Buddhism is widely practiced in the island chain. In 2012, Mazie Hirono became the first Buddhist to be elected to the U.S. Senate.