Learning more about Harikuyo
November 3, 2008 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone provide deeper insight into the Japanese Harikuyo festival, where broken sewing needles from throughout the year are ritually buried and given thanks?

I'm searching for insight into the festival, how commonly it is celebrated (and by who? needlearts professionals only?), and for personal photos about it for an upcoming article. Have you ever been to a celebration? Are there similar festivals for any other needle arts such as knitting? Thanks!
posted by bitter-girl.com to Society & Culture (3 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm no expert (and I used to live in the countryside, rather than in Tokyo), but according to this article harikuyo (針供養)is practiced in most parts of Japan. Generally speaking, although there are some exceptions, harikuyo is practiced in eastern and northeastern Japan on February 8, while harikuyo is practiced in western Japan on December 8. It is thought that this festival originated in China.

In Japan, the festival is observed by artisans who rely on needles for their livelihood - tailors, seamtresses, weavers, etc., rather than regular folks who might darn their socks.

Needles are taken to a Shinto shrine (or sometimes a temple) for kuyuo, where the old needles are stuck into something soft like tofu or konnyaku jelly as a reward for the long service and hard work performed by the needles day in and day out.

The key concepts here are 供養 (kuyo), usually translated as "memorial service", but which can also be translated as "tribute".

The other concept is the Japanese word 魂 (tamashii), or soul. Many things in Japan, including inanimate objects, or said to have a tamashii, or soul, including houses, trees, large rocks, and even dolls. http://ask.metafilter.com/105891/Learning-more-about-Harikuyo
Learning more about Harikuyo | Ask Metafilter

Old stuffed animals and dolls in Japan are not usually thrown out, but instead receive their own kuyo service.

This belief in tamashii is not formalized - people don't go around talking about how this and that has a tamashii, because religion and folk belief are lived in Japan.

Folk belief in Japan is a fascinating subject. If you want a really good (although somewhat dated) resource, check out The Catalpa Bow, by Carmen Blacker. It's a snapshot of folk belief in the countryside forty or more years ago. It's one of my most treasured possessions.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:56 PM on November 3, 2008 [6 favorites]

Thanks so much, KokuRyu! That's excellent. Now, to find some good photos...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:19 AM on November 4, 2008

Here are a few images.

Awaji-shima Jinja (shrine) is closely associated with harikuyou, so you could try Flickr (see my Google search terms for the Chinese characters) for more photos.

This JapanFocus article on Mizuki Shigeru is pretty interesting, too. It doesn't talk about harikuyou, though.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:45 AM on November 4, 2008

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