Bebe Taian: Hari-kuyo, Sewing Needle Memorial Service

February 8, 2012

Hari-kuyo, Sewing Needle Memorial Service

Did you know that Japan has a memorial service for worn out or broken sewing needles? Neither did I, until today! They have one for many human-like objects such as dolls, but I didn't know about sewing needles!

Every year on Feb. 8th, or in some places, Dec. 8th, there is a kuyo service for hari, sewing needles. One sticks them into a firm block of tofu or konnyaku (which I suggest you try if you're on a diet). They are then offered to a shrine.

It is a ritual of respect for the tools of the sewing/tailouring industry, and the lives they help support. This tradition dates back to at least the Edo era, when men and women would dress up in their best clothes and hold a funerary service for all of the needles and tools broken in service that year. This service involves a three-tier altar at the shrine (usually, kuyo is a Buddhist ceremony, but Shinto shrines will hold them, too). The bottom tier is for accessories such as scissors, measuring implements, things like this. The second is for the block of tofu or konnyaku, where everyone will put their needles to be laid to rest. The third is for food offerings, usually white mochi cakes, fruit, or things like this. When someone uses something for a long time, especially a thing that supports your livelihood, it can gain a spirit of it's own. It is this spirit that the food offerings are made for. Then, the priests will say prayers or sutras in order to soothe the spirits of the broken needles, and to bless those who used them, finally praying that the energy put into these objects will be bestowed again on their users so that their skills may improve in the next year.

Sewing on this day is completely taboo.

There is an article here on the subject. It is a few years old, and is short, but worth the read.
There is another written at a kimono blog that I love to read.
There are many lively photos at this persons' Google+ album!

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful ceremony! I like the idea of giving honor and thanks to that which has blessed us, helped us create art or work (or both). The US is such a toss-away society.

    Thanks for sharing that!