Hari-Kuyo – Festival of Broken Needles

Pins in tofu for Hari-Kuyo

Image source: shiborigirl.blogspot.com

February 8 is the annual observance of the Japanese Shinto Festival of Broken Needles, known as Hari-Kuyo. Hari-Kuyo is the appreciation for needles and pins that have worked so hard to serve the tailor and seamstress. Needles and pins are placed in a block of soft tofu; the tofu serves as a soft grave, reflecting the Shinto belief that all living beings and objects have a soul and spirit.

“Today the services are attended not only by tailors and dressmakers but also by people who sew at home. Traditionally, a shrine is set up in the Shinto style, with a sacred rope and strips of white paper suspended over a three-tiered altar. On the top tier are offerings of cake and fruit, on the second tier there is a pan of tofu, and the bottom tier is for placing scissors and thimbles. The tofu is the important ingredient; people insert their broken or bent needles in it while offering prayers of thanks to the needles for their years of service. In the Buddhist service, special sutras are recited for the repose of the needles. Afterwards, the needles are wrapped in paper and laid to rest in the sea.” Source: Answers.com, Holidays, Festivals & Celebrations of the World

Priest at Hari-Kuyo ceremony

Image source: Wakayama City Sightseeing Association

“The tofu keeps them safe and not forgotten, yet because of being protected in the tofu they can do no harm with their points. In a second  sense they are still present in life. The priest will incant a sutra, that reflects the passage of the needles from use, and invokes a Buddhist blessing that is passed on to the users of the needles. By showing respect to the needles they have used through the past year, they are offering thanks and requesting that the power and energy of the needles be present in the stitchers for the coming year, so that their skills may be improved. Priests will also sing sutras to comfort the needles, heal their broken spirits and thank them for work well done. No sewing takes place on this day.” Source: Temarikai.com

I tried to find a temple that might be performing this beautiful observance within the Chicago area, but, unfortunately, since it is an old Shinto rite, this just isn’t performed in our area. However, everywhere that I inquired — the Midwest Buddhist Temple, the Japan America Society of Chicago and the Japan Information Center at the Japan Consulate — were all very interested in this observance and surprised that someone was interested in this rite. Everyone seemed to think that it may not be as popular because there are fewer people who sew. How sad for them to think this, especially because Japan has such a beautiful history of needlework!

So, let’s take a moment today to thank our needles and pins for the wonderful work they’ve helped us to accomplish!

Hari-Kuyo

Source: japanese-embroidery.blogspot.com

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