Rin gongs: the sound of relaxation

05 May 2017 in Discover Japan

Tune in to the sounds of meditation! Discover the rin gong, the Japanese bell that relaxes body and mind.


Think of bells and you probably think of weddings, churches and melodic tunes. But in Japan, bells are more likely to be associated with calm and relaxation than with celebration.

One of the key elements of traditional Buddhist meditation is the rin gong, also known as a “singing bowl”. As its alternative name suggests, the rin gong actually looks like a bowl – yet it produces a sound like a bell or gong.

Usually made from bronze or brass, the rin gong sits directly on the floor or on a cushion and comes in a variety of sizes. The bigger the bowl, the deeper the sound. Some of the biggest rin gongs can be found in temples, so keep your eyes peeled if you have a chance to visit a Buddhist site in Japan.

Meditation instruments

How do you get a sound from the rin gong? There are two ways, both requiring a wooden mallet. The bowl can either be struck, producing a powerful, lingering tone. Or you can rub the mallet around the rim of the bowl in a continuous motion, creating a steady singing sound. By varying the speed, you change the pitch.

Meditation bowl

Traditionally used to accompany chants and meditation, rin gongs have today been adopted for yoga and other forms of relaxation. Different pitches and tones are used to create physical reverberations that impact the body and mind.

Hoshinoya Kyoto room


At HOSHINOYA Kyoto, you can take part in early morning worship at a local Buddhist temple, with the rin gong a central part of the ceremony. You’ll have to get up early, but chanting in a small group with a Buddhist monk is something you’re unlikely to forget! And you’ll get to experience the ethereal sound of the rin gong first-hand.


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