Hari Kuyo (Japan)

Hari kuyo festival, Japan. Hari kuyo festival, Japan.

Hari Kuyo is a Japanese Buddhist ritual honouring needles. Hari means needle, while kuyo means memorial service. Since ancient times in Japan, people have believed that souls dwell inside all objects, and memorial services are held not only for the deceased, but also for animals and worn out objects such as brushes, combs, dolls, knives, and of course needles.

Every year on 8th December (in the eastern part of Japan) or 8th February (western part of the country) artisans who rely on needles for their livelihood, including embroiderers, seamstresses, tailors and weavers, as well as those who are seriously engaged in sewing, come together to hold needle memorial services. Sometimes needle makers, such as Misuya Chubei (Kyoto), also hold their own hari kuyo. This is a way of expressing their thanks to the needles for their long hard work, and also to pray for the improvement of the artisan’s own sewing skills.

These were the days when people should refrain from all work, as 8th February was the day to start working and 8th December was the day to stop working according to the traditional agricultural calendar. The artisans bring bent or broken needles to shrines or temples and stick them into soft beds made from tofu or konnyaku (yam jelly) in order for the needles to rest in peace. Then special prayers are recited. At the end of the ritual, everything is wrapped in paper and placed into the local river where the small packages float away, often down to the sea. In some area the needles are buried in the ground.

The ritual of hari kuyo started in the Edo period (seventeenth-nineteenth centuries), when sewing was one of the most important skills for women.


Digital source of illustration (retrieved 4th July 2016).


Last modified on Thursday, 04 May 2017 18:29