This is an article from our Patreon (written on December, 2020), and intending to share more information about a style of Hari Kuyou – that I introduce on Instagram. I made this article public for limited time so that we can share the actual images of Harikuyou happening in Japan. It would be great if you could consider supporting us on Patreon for us keep sharing the stories (For those who already support me on Patreon, I really appreciate your understanding of sharing this article outside of the Patreon).
Feb.8th was the day of “Kotoyouka (事八日）”. “Harikuyou (針供養)” is one of the ceremony we have on Kotoyouka. The Harikuyou – a requiem ceremony for hard-working broken & bent needles, seems to inspire many non-Japanese people with the concept of “appreciating the spirit within a material”. I am very happy to share how important it is to be familiar with Animism in Japan. It is very ordinary for us to appreciate a “matter”.
I haven’t been back to Japan for more than 7 years. It was a pity to not be able to share the Harikuyou in Japan with photos. One of the followers on Instagram kindly shared some photos of her visit to one of the most famous Shinto shrines for Harikuyou – Osaka Tenmangu.
Harikuyou in Osaka Tenmangu – Report of Harikuyou
Each Shinto Shrine has their own “Spirit” to appreciate. The spirit can be a form of “God exists in Nature”, “Historical person with great achievement”, “An emperor in history”, and/or “someone who sacrifices their lives to the development of Japan”. It is very challenging to summarize this concept, and it requires a collection of books to explain the whole picture. In short rough summary, it may be easy to understand that each Shinto Shrine has a “theme” in their own form of Appreciation (*1).
*1 – As a famous example, please let me share Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. Yasukuni Shrine was founded by Emperor Meiji in June 1869 and commemorates those who died in service of Japanese Modernization. It includes the spirit who sacrificed their lives in World war II – and it means it includes those Kamikaze pilots. It has been a political issue to visit Yasukuni Shrine as a “politician” because it “could” validate the history of Japan going into war. It isn’t an easy discussion to conclude, but I hope this explains what I meant by “theme” in each Shrine.
In some of the big shinto shrines, they have many buildings. Each building often celebrates a different spirit even in the same Shinto Shrine (which is very confusing for many western people who believe in The (Absolute) God).
In Osaka Tenmangu, the Harikuyou is performed in Kibi Shrine (building) in which celebrate the spirit of Kibi no Makibi (吉備 真備) who is well-known for a one of the first “International Students to China in 717”. Those “International Students (we call it ‘Kentoushi – 遣唐使）” imported many techniques, skills, wisdom and culture from China. Since the group of Kibi no Makibi is known as the one who imported a variety of embroidery techniques to Japan, the ceremony for needles is held here.
I hope it makes sense – the relationship between who is appreciated in each shrine and how it is related to what they have accomplished.
Something Soft for the needles to rest
Harikuyou is a ceremony to show appreciation to the hard-working needles. Therefore, we stick the needles into something soft so that they can rest in it. In some places, they use “Tofu”. In this Shrine, they use “Konnyaku – こんにゃく” (a traditional Japanese food and is made from Konjac Yam).
As you can see, many kinds of needles are brought to the Harikuyou. A dressmaker’s pins, hand-sewing needles, and also Sashiko needles as well.
Harizuka (針塚) where needles rest forever
The needles in something soft will be serviced (purified) by a Shinto priest. Then, it will be buried in a mound – so called Harizuka (針塚) – Needle mound. The photo introduces that this Harizuka is made by contributions from 2 organizations deeply related to needle work in 1926. The 2 organizations are “Union of Merchant & Maker of Japanese Kimono in Osaka” & “A group of volunteers of Embroidery Artisans in Osaka”. It explains how deeply our ordinary is related to the Japanese history.
It doesn’t have to be this “Formal”
As much as I would like to visit a Shinto Shrine to perform the Harikuyou, possibly & hopefully with you one day, the ceremony doesn’t have to be that “formal” like these photos. The most important concept of Harikuyou is to acknowledge the spirit within the Needles and “appreciate” it. It can lead us to appreciate the environment, someone who makes the tools, and each stitcher like ourselves. This is the sustainability of “caring” and “mindfulness” that I would like to pass down. It is the ordinary of Japanese, which can be an inspirational custom for the world.
Interested in how we do Hari Kuyou?
Besides this Report of Harikuyou, the article about the detail of Hari-Kuyou is available on this website for limited time as well.