How Far Does Miidera Temple's Evening Bell Echo?Citizens and Students Investigate31 May 2014 - Local topics
"How far away can the evening bell of Miidera Temple, one of the Eight Views of Omi, be heard?" A citizen's group and a team of Kyoto students have been conducting a survey to ascertain the extent of the echo of the hanging bell in Onjoji Temple, also called Miidera Temple, in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, since June 1. With the cooperation of the local Nagara elementary school, the areas the hanging bell can be heard outdoors are being identified and recorded on a map every morning until June 7. On May 31, a total of 30 Nagara elementary school students and their parents got to hear the beautiful sound in advance as they experienced the bell-ringing at the temple.
As the successor to the old hanging bell which is known through the legend of "Benkei no Hikizuri Gane," or the bell which was said to be dragged to the summit of Mount Hiei by the warrior monk Benkei, the new bell was cast by the Toyotomi family in the Momoyama Period. It is approximately 2 meters in height, 1.25 meters in diameter and 2.2 tons in weight, and is counted as one of the three Japanese bells with the most beautiful tones.
It is said that the temple's bell echoed up to Lake Biwa in the past, however, apartments and other buildings have been built around the temple in recent years, making it difficult for the tolls to reach far and wide. In order for people to recognize the attractiveness of the local area through its sound, a citizens' group called "Rekimachi Otsu no Mirai wo Kangaeru Kai," or a design association for historic Otsu City, and a team from the Kyoto Institute of Technology, in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, designed the survey. They will put together the data about the areas where pupils of Nagara elementary school could hear the sound of the bell on June 7, the final day of research.
At the pre-event bell-ringing experience, participants were taught about the thickness and materials of the bell, and the sound differences according to the seasons or land features, by Toshihiko Fuke, a senior priest at Miidera Temple, in the front of the bell tower designated as an Important Cultural Property. After that, they tried actually ringing the bell. When they gripped the wooden bell hammer and struck the bell powerfully, it resounded with a large, deep peal.
A sixth grade boy at Nagara Elementary, said, "The sound of the bell was really beautiful and powerful. I think it must echo far."(translated by Galileo, Inc.)