As people in south Louisiana celebrate the Mardi Gras season, some in Japan will be marking an old festival in Shinto and Buddhist shrines on Friday.
Hari-kuyo is a time for kimono-makers to lay to rest their year’s worth of old, broken and worn-out needles and pins. Hari is needle, and kuyou is a memorial service in Buddhist cultures. As with many Asian festivals, the date varies by location.
During the ceremony, people bring their old needles and stick them into a large piece of tofu. This is a way of thanking the needles and pins for their service.
In Shinto belief, all objects have a soul and spirit, so the ceremony is a way of recognizing the life of the sewing objects.
The tofu is in the center of a three-level altar. Tofu or other soft materials are used to soothe the needles while protecting their tips.
The upper level holds seasonal fruit and rice cakes as offerings. The lower level is decorated with sewing accessories.
The tofu-and-pin creation is taken to a sacred resting spot or floated down a river.
No needlecraft is performed on the day.
The ceremony is attended mostly by women who wear their kimonos.
While at the shrine, the participants pray, and the priest leads a sutra to mark the passage of the needles from use to rest. This blessing then is passed to the needle users. Sutras are also offered to comfort and thank the needles
It is thought that by respecting the used needles, energy will transfer back to the users for the coming year.
Sources vary on how old the rite is. Some say it started as recently as 400 years ago, some trace it to more than 1,500 years ago. They agree that in the past few decades, attendance has dropped because so few people make fancy kimonos anymore.
However, the festival has gained notice on sewing blogs in Western countries, and many of the writers are creating their own ceremonies based on the rite.
At http://sudukc.wordpress.com/tag/hari-kuyo/, the writer describes her ceremony and shares links to others’ descriptions.
Sources: http://www.temarikai.com/ThingsJapanese/HarikuyoNeedleFestival.html, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2007/02/08/oukoe-uk-japan-needles-idUKT33020120070208, http://www.jpf.org.au/onlinearticles/hitokuchimemo/issue7.html
The Rock and Worship Roadshow is headed to Baton Rouge on Feb 17. Artists include MercyMe, Family Force 5, Jeremy Camp, Kutless. Luminate, Rhett Walker Band and Tedashii.
Admission is $10 at the door, but limited VIP packages that allow early admission are available at http://therockandworshiproadshow.com/ for $50.
Send ideas and comments to Leila Pitchford-English, The Advocate, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0588 or to lenglish @theadvocate.com.