A Buddhist priest from Chionin temple uses his entire body to tug a huge wooden bell hammer while other priests lend a hand by manipulating ropes. (Video taken by Jiro Omura)

KYOTO--Temple bells usually start being tolled on New Year's Eve, but here the deep, somber sound echoed around a temple four days earlier.

Seventeen Buddhist priests heaved an enormous wooden hammer to strike the giant 70-ton bell at Chionin temple, the head temple of Jodo Shu (the Pure Land Sect), in this city’s Higashiyama Ward on Dec. 27 in a practice run for Dec. 31.

One of them hangs face-up under the bell holding the thickest rope while the other priests tug other ropes to control the hammer while chanting “Eei hitotsu” (take one) and “Soore,” an untranslatable exclamation in Japanese.

The bell, cast in 1636, is 3.3 meters tall with a diameter of 2.8 meters.

If there was a hall of fame for bells in Japan this monster would be there, along with other famous gongs such as those at Todaiji temple in Nara and Hokoji temple, also in Higashiyama Ward.

The Chionin temple bell will be tolled 108 times to mark the coming of the new year, starting around 10:40 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.