Harikuyo – The day to thank to the needles
Today the 8th of December is known as Harikuyo (針供養) in Japan. It´s the day all the people who use needles for their profession, tailors, dressmakers, seamstresses or acpunctures go to the shrine and attend the memorial ceremony. Hari is needles in Japanese and Kuyo means to hold a ceremony to rest someone or something´s soul.
This day, you may see at some shrines with many people with broken needles and all of them are stuck in either tofu or kon-nyaku (こんにゃく). Since the needles are always stuck into harder materials, at least at the end they can stick something soft. This is just to show a gratitude to the needles. What a nice thought.
The most famous shrine for Harikuyo is Awashima Jinja (淡島神社) in Wakayama prefecture where is known to be the God for women. Sensoji (浅草寺) in Tokyo is also well known but they hold the ceremony on the 8th of February instead of December.
To Sensoji, used to be the local fishermen came to the ceremony. Of course, they also use needles to fish. But now a days most of them are the students of dress making schools or the local hospitals.
Depending on the region, Harikuyo is held in December or in February. In December, it has a meaning of closing up the work for the year and in February, it´s a starting. In the western part of Japan seems to do more in December and in the eastern part in Febryary. So if you miss today, you also have a chance to see in a few months time.
Interesting thing is, these two days are also important day in Buddhism. The 8th of December is the day when Buddha had an enlightenment. And the 8th of February is the day Buddha was born. It´s a curious coincidence.
After the ceremony, all the broken or old needles are buried in Hariduka (針塚/needle mound), a tomb for the needles to rest peacefully.
In Japan there are some other days to kuyo specific things such as old dolls, which is one of the biggest one.
I´ve read somewhere that there is a Harikuyo Song but I couldn´t find it. If you know, let me know. I´d love to hear it.
Sticking the needles into tofu or konnyaku is more common but in some parts they use mochi instead. Thinking that mochi is considered as a good luck food in Japan, this is understandable people use mochi to show appreciation to the old needles.
Now you know what Harikuyo is. This is also the day all the dressmakers stop working and rest the instruments as well as themselves. And they also go to the shrine to wish for a better sewing skill for the next year.
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