SAN FRANCISCO — Say goodbye to 2012 with family and friends by taking a swing at a giant temple bell on Sunday, Dec. 30.

Bring your loved ones to the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St. in San Francisco’s Civic Center, and literally “ring in” the new year, Japanese-style. Everyone is invited to participate in the auspicious Japanese tradition. This popular event offers the community a memorable opportunity to reflect peacefully upon the passing year.

As in past observances, a 2,100-pound, 16th-century bronze bell originally from a temple in Tajima Province in Japan and now part of the museum’s collection will be struck 108 times with a large custom-hewn log. According to Japanese custom, this symbolically welcomes the new year and curbs the 108 bonno (mortal desires) that, according to Buddhist belief, torment humankind.

It is hoped that with each reverberation the bad experiences, wrong deeds, and ill luck of the past year will be wiped away. Thus, tolling heralds the start of a joyous, fresh new year.

Doors open at 9 a.m. for museum members and at 11 a.m. for the general public. The event is free with museum admission.

Zen Buddhist priest Gengo Akiba Roshi will conduct a blessing and begin the bell-ringing. Akiba is director of the Soto Zen Buddhism North American office as well as a Zen teacher at Oakland’s Kojin-an Zendo.

Hands-on art activities will be offered in the education studios from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to entertain families while waiting for their turn at the bell.

Numbered tickets to ring the bell are assigned to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis in South Court beginning at 10 a.m., when the museum opens to the public. No advance reservations are accepted. 108 groups of four to six people will be assembled to strike the bell.

For the members-only bell-ringing, numbered tickets distributed at the Membership Desk.

Welcome the Year of the Snake at the Asian Art Museum. Make a snake netsuke, draw omikuji (fortune paper) and find your fortune for the year 2013. Netsuke are small sculptures that act as fasteners, used to secure a purse or container, suspended on a cord from the sash of a robe in Edo-period Japan. Pictured below are zodiac animal-inspired netsuke that artist Natsusaka Shinichiro designed for the museum.

For more information, call (415) 581-3500 or visit

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