Hari-Kuyo – The Ceremony of Broken Needles

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.

Stitch Modern Ceremony

East Bay Modern Quilt Guild held a version of this meaningful ceremony last Saturday, February 8th, as part of a series of events connected with Stitch Modern 2014, their annual show.

Photo by Pati Fried

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.

Photo by Pati Fried

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.

Photo by Pati Fried

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.

Photo by Pati Fried

ではまた。Dewa mata, (See you later).

Signature Cropped

12 thoughts on “Hari-Kuyo – The Ceremony of Broken Needles

  1. You know I learned something today! Thank you. I will do my part and try to teach someone else about this. I have never thought about this, but we do need to think back on what we have learned. Think of where we can go. But most importantly be thankful for what has been provided for us to better ourselves. This gives us another day to be grateful. So thank you for helping me be grateful for the needles and pins that help me create my beautiful work.


  2. Thank you so much for sharing this, as a new resident of Hawaii, I was told about this in a brief description at our guild meeting. After reading this I think it needs to become a part of my yearly practice. It is a wonderful tradition and all those sewers from the centuries can’t be wrong.


  3. I noticed the announcement of this event on the back of the Stitch Modern Show postcard. I was intrigued but unable to attend – thank you for sharing pictures and giving us the history behind the ceremony! Putting it on my calendar for next year!


  4. What a beautiful sentiment. Our tools enable us to create such beautiful works of art. How appropriate to honor them in this way. Thanks for sharing this tradition with us.


  5. What a lovely ritual! I sometimes say “words” over broken needles, but they are rarely of the grateful/reflective variety! It’s time I changed my ways, too. Thanks for your part in spreading the word.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s