On Friday I went to a local harikuyou 針供養 festival. February 8th is a day to pay respect to your old sewing needles by sticking them in tofu.
The idea is that your needles have worked hard and have served you well, and so deserve a soft place to live our their final days.
My friend who is also a stitcher and I joined women in kimono and men in glimmering robes inside the small temple. We were ushered in and we kneeled on pillows. A box of incense passed our way and we were encouraged to pinch some into the embers and pray. We lined up with everyone and stuck our needles into the tofu. Then the temple ladies handed us sweet amazake. They reminded us it was cold outside, we needed to drink up, and handed us a second cup.
After the ceremony we went outside and noticed women were also dropping pins and needles into a large stone box. We peeked inside and saw it was filled up to the eaves. They told us it has been a resting place for needles for as long as the temple has been there. (I looked at their website, maybe since 1608?)
We strolled around the temple grounds, admiring the ume trees in bloom. It was cold, but a lovely day.
Just before I placed my needle into the tofu I accidentally pricked myself with it, and it drew a little blood. He (yes, he) wouldn’t go without a fight. I felt some remorse about sending him to his end, so I hope I did right by this little needle in finding him a tofu bed.
I bought a good luck charm from the temple to help me while sewing this year. I haven’t pricked myself since.
Ps, I have updated this post so it no longer refers to my friend and myself as sewers. We are indeed people who use needles, not big holes of crap. 😉
What a wonderful tradition. Old needles deserve some comfort at the end of their lives of service. After they leave the tofu do they join the other needles in the little stone house? It is lovely to think of all the women (and possibly men?) who so honored the tools of their craft by leaving them in a sacred place. Now you and your needle are among them. Well done!
Unfortunately, I’m not totally sure where they go. To a happier place, I hope!
Hi Angie, Masha here in Clayton, California. Can you please add my daughter, Jarusha, to your blog list? She is now in Urayasu/Tokyo Disney for 14 mos. Her email is: “JARUSHA@softbank.ne.jp”
Thank you! I do enjoy your posts!
Will do Masha! Thanks!
What a cute, quaint festival! Haha Of course there would be something like this in Japan. There’s a shrine for everything! The tofu is such an interesting thing to use as a needle holder.
Sometimes festivals get a bit oo crowded, but this one was just right. 🙂
Sounds like that needle was still a little attached to you!
We spent a lot of time together. 😉
Such a beautiful post!
You need a better term than “sewer.”
Get your head out of the sewing machine, Soth!
Oh my gosh how cute. I am doing that tonight. Or maybe instead of tofu I will stick my needle in a pancake Tuesday pancake instead 🙂
I’ve never heard of anything like this! It’s pretty neat, and 400 years of old needles?! Just the idea of needles deserving retirement is great.
Such a great post Angela; thanks for sharing the event! Only in Japan. Love the photos of the shrine.
yes, a great post, I loved it.
This is something I never would have imagined. It’s clearly one of the scenes in your upcoming play, novel, movie. I love it.
What a fascinating ritual. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.
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