Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kane - bell

It is believed, in Japan, that bells and wind chimes attract good luck and bring prosperity.

A New Year's tradition in Japan is to stay up late and listen to the ringing of the Tsuri Gane (Temple Bells). In Buddhist temples the bonsho (large Buddhist temple bells that have no interior clapper) are struck with a long log or pole suspended by ropes at a special spot called the tsukiza which traditionally has a lotus petal design. The Joya-no-Kane consists of 108 tolls of the temple bells. In Buddhism, it is believed that man has 108 sins that, by hearing the bells toll 108 times, those sins can be relieved.

While some Shinto shrines have large temple bells called waniguchi which are flat and without a clapper, they are rung using a mallet. They also have suzu (round bells with a pellet inside or a clapper). Large versions of these bells are often found over an offering box with a rope attached so that worshipers can shake them to attract the attention of the kami. Smaller versions are used by miko during dances attached in a small cluster to a handle and shaken. Suzu are believed to have spiritual power; so they are also used as onamori (protection amulets).

Another type of bell used in Buddhism is a Kinsu (a bowl shaped bell on a small cushion also called a kin). These are used in Buddhist services a monk strikes it when he is about to chant Buddhist Sutras. The monk then sits on a cushion and chants, rhythmically hitting a wooden fish (mokugyo). Alternatively they are known as singing bowls where the sides and rim of bell vibrate to produce sound. They are commonly used before offering prayers (like Soun Tendo did in the Ranma manga) and during meditation.

Another type of bell in Japanese culture is the hansho, which is a fire alarm bell. These bells would be hung in a fire watchtowers (hinomi). If the fire was far away the beats on the bell would be single, closer double, and when a fire is nearby the bell would be loudly beaten at a fast pace. Some towns would also use them to mark the time.

A Japanese bell of note is the Japanese Peace Bell which was given to the United Nations on June 8, 1954.

Another type of bell, furin (wind chimes), were discussed in an earlier post.

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