Hari Kuyou – Memorial Service for Needles

“All the things have their own soul.” – It’s a combination of aspect of Buddhism with the traditional Shinto belief that both living and inanimate objects have a spirit and soul.

Hari kuyou at Awajidou in Senso-ji in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
Hari kuyou is a memorial service for old sewing needles and pins in Japan.

It is the ceremony to pray to console the broken needles.  “Hari” means needle and “Kuyou” means a memorial service in Buddhism. “Kuyou” is usually held for the spirits of the dead, but it has been held for other than human beings, such as things used for a long time, has been broken or has become useless.

Long ago, women’s abilities andSenso-ji in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan temperament were judged by sewing skills and needles were such important tools.

Hari kuyou is held at Awajidou in Senso-ji in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. Each year, on February 8th, broken or damaged sewing needles are stuck into tofu and offered to a Shinto shrine.

Today, this ceremony still brings women together. In addition to the original purpose of consoling their tools, women are suggested to take a time to console themselves and bury secrets too personal to reveal.

Hari Kuyou - Memorial Service for Needles

People bring needles to a shrine and stick into a tofu (bean curd).

[Image credit: http://unajaponesaenjapon.wordpress.com/2008/02/06/hari-kuyou/]


Images of Tsukumogami from Hyakki Yako Emaki

It was believed that the tools and utensils used roughly should become the monsters (the Gods named Tsukumogami) to attack people 100 years later. Tsukumogami, or “artifact spirit”, are a type of Japanese spirit. According to the Tsukumogami-emaki, tsukumogami originate from items or artifacts that have reached their 100th birthday and thus become alive and aware. Any object of this age, from swords to toys, can become a tsukumogami.

A toy is an object used in play. Toys are usually associated with children and pets, but it is not unusual for adult humans and some non-domesticated animals to play with toys. Many items are manufactured to serve as toys, but goods, or services produced for other purposes can also be used as toys, can become a tsukumogami.

Though large tsukumogami are harmless, they do have the capacity for anger to band together to take revenge on those who are wasteful or throw them away thoughtlessly. To prevent this, to this day some Jinja (Shinto shrine) ceremonies, such as the Hari Kuyou, are performed.

It is said that modern items cannot become tsukumogami; the reason for this is that tsukumogami are said to be repelled by electricity. Additionally, few modern items are used for the 100-year-span that it takes for an artifact to gain a soul.

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