In Japan, the Hari-Kuyo ceremony is held throughout Japan annually on the 8th of February. This 400-year-old tradition is held at Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples as a celebration of the small tools used by seamstresses, embroiderers, and housewives over the previous year.
It is believed that these inanimate objects have souls and by using them, some of their pain is released. Broken or worn needles, pins, and some small scissors are brought to the ceremony and thanked for their good service in creating sashiko, kimonos, or even for daily mending. Then they are gently laid to rest in a soft tofu cake.
Tofu is symbolic in this instance for rest and tenderness; a peaceful place for the tools retirement. In observance of the ceremony, no sewing is to take place on this day, as this gives time for reflection and time to pray that sewing skills improve the following year. Audrey Yang tells of the ceremony in a beautiful online booklet- Hari-Kuyo: Festival of the Broken Needle.
I found paying my respects and praying to console my broken needles a wonderful opportunity to share in a time honored tradition . I spend so much of my day with needle and scissors in hand. It was a moment to reflect on my year as a quilter and to be thankful of the accomplishments made with these tiny tools. I have always tossed them away without regard to their importance to my craft. This was an opportunity to change my thinking.
The ceremony was thoughtful and welcoming. Birgit Hottenrott, the driving force to celebrate Hari-Kuyo at Stitch Modern, shared the history and lore that has evolved with this special day. While she spoke, many brought their broken needles to rest in the peaceful bed of tofu. Birgit ended the ceremony with the lovely poem by Emily Dickinson, Don’t put up my Thread and Needle.
Thank you Birgit, for bringing this lovely tradition to our attention. As this year proceeds, I fully intend to keep a special place for retiring my used needles until February 8, 2015, when I will again, pay them the respect they deserve and celebrate Hari-Kuyo.
ではまた。Dewa mata, (See you later).