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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on February 16, 2015
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 47] February 16, 2015

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 47]
February 16, 2015
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1.Seasonal Festival:
Feeling spirits even in instruments:
"Hari Kuyou" (a requiem ceremory for broken needles)

:: 1. Seasonal Festival

Feeling spirits even in instruments:
"Hari Kuyou" (a requiem ceremory for broken needles)

On 8th February, a requiem ceremony for broken sewing needles is held
mainly in the north Kanto area. Eighth December and 8th February in
every year are called "Koto Youka". Some farming areas regard 8th
February as "Koto hajime (the beginning of work)" and 8th December as
"Koto osame (the end of work)" , while some areas would follow the new
year calendar, regarding 8th December 8th as "Koto hajime" and 8th
February 8th as "Koto osame". This requiem ceremony is usually held on
8th December from Kansai area and to the west.

The "Hari Kuyou" is the event started in the Edo period (17-19c), in
which old and broken needles are gathered for a requiem. On this day,
the needles are not stuck into hard things like normal, but Tofu,
Konnyaku which is a slightly firm jellylike food or soft mochi to rest.
And then, it is taken into the shrine which enshrines Awashima no Kami
who is a god of women related stuff, or other temples. People show
appreciation for the instruments which work hard for them every day,
and they also pray for improving their needlework skills and not
having an injury from it.

During the Edo period (17-19c), in the kimono or Tabi (socks for
kimono)-making technician's houses, they had a day off from needlework
and put the broken needles wrapped in cotton cloth, then displayed it
in a Tokonoma (alcove in a traditional Japanese room to display art or
flowers) on the "Koto youka" day. It was taken to a shrine or a
temple for a requiem afterwards. The women who had been doing
needlework at home all the time would have day off from it on this day
as well, called "Hariyasume".

The head shrine of all of Awashima no Kami worshiping shrines in the
whole country is in Kada of Wakayama prefecture (western Japan), which
is called Kada Awashima shrine. It mainly enshrines the god called
"Sukunabikona no kami" who was the first person to teach needlework to
people. The shrine also enshrines "波利塞女 (Harisainyo)" who is the
sixth daughter of Amaterasu Oomikami (the head goddess of the Japanese
myths). She used to be a consort of Sumiyoshi Myoujin but was sent to
Kada due to gynopathy. As needle is Hari (針) in Japanese, her name
could be the reason that she is enshrined in this shrine as well.
Sukunabikona no kami is also known as a god of medicine. Since
Harisainyo is a god who heals gynopathy, many people believe the
requiem ceremony for needles was apparently established to support

Since there are not so many people doing needlework at home today, the
requiem ceremony for broken needles can rarely be seen in individual
homes. However it is actually carried out by kimono-making technician,
schools with clothing courses, tatami mat technicians or medical
nurses. Nowadays, ready-made goods can be bought or thrown away easily
and we seldom produce handmade products at home, however, we should
sometimes show our appreciation to daily tools and objects.

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yitin

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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