Friday, February 12, 2010

Harikuyo - Festival of Broken Needles

Imagine this in our throw away culture, an annual ceremony for sewing needles.

The Festival of Broken Needles, harikuyo, has taken place in Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples all over Japan on February 8th for hundreds of years. While memorial services are more usually held for the spirits of the dead, there is an old Shinto belief that inanimate objects, as well as living beings, have a soul and spirit. The animists believe that to simply discard a tool that has served you well is disrespectful would anger the object's soul.

Tailors, embroiderers and other needleworkers gather their worn and broken needles from the previous year and take them to the temple. Prayers of respect and thanks giving are offered. The needles are pushed into slabs of tofu or other soft substances to keep them safe and to prevent their sharp points doing any harm before they are taken to their final resting place. By showing respect and offering prayers it is hoped that the power and energy of the needle will pass to the owner and make them a better stitcher.


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