Hari Kuyo: The Memorial Service for the Old Needles

Hari Kuyo

Do you know that there is a custom in Japan called "Hari Kuyo"? Or have you ever seen tofu with needles stuck to it?

Hari Kuyo is a Japanese ritual honoring the needles that are broken, rusted, bent, or otherwise unusable. Along with making offerings to the old needles, people pray for improvement in their sewing skills. And today is one of the two days that event is held every year.

The ritual is held on the eighth day of February and December. Koto-Hajime (the first work day of the year) is celebrated on February 8. And December 8 is known as Koto-Osame (the last working day of the year).

Because these two days are regarded as "days to spend modestly and humbly,” people believe needles should be rested from needlework. This is how those days came to be known as “days to celebrate the old needles.”

Although fewer people sew at home these days, Hari Kuyo ceremonies are still held in temples, shrines, at homes around Japan.

When people perform needle offerings at home, they stick the old needles into soft things, such as tofu or konnyaku. Then they thank the needles and pray for their wishes. Sewing needles are often used for thick or hard things, so sticking needles into soft things is a way of praying for the needles.

This year, I worked on several upcycling projects in which I mended denim cloth. I snapped several needles when sewing heavy denim fabric together. I've chosen not to chuck them out casually. Instead, I'll do a personal Hari Kuyo at home to thank the needles that worked so hard for me.

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