Needle ceremonies (hari kuyo)


Needle services (hari kuyoo)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Winter and Spring
***** Category: Observance


kigo for mid-winter in Kansai

hari osame 針納(はりおさめ) "end of the needlework"
hari yasumi 針休み(はりやすみ) "resting the needles"
hari osame 針納(はりおさめ) putting away the needles
hari matsuri 針祭(はりまつり)needle festival

haki kuyoo 針供養 (はりくよう) Hari Kuyo
(this word is also used for the spring ceremony)

Memorial service for used needles and pins

In the Kanto region, it is practised on February 8,
in Kyoto and Kansai on December 8.


kigo for early spring in Kanto

Needle Memorial Service (hari kuyoo 針供養)
February 8

This is the day when Buddhist masses are sung for needles broken during the past year since it is thought that the needles' lives were sacrificed in service.

A small three-step altar is set up and hung with a sacred rope and strips of cut white paper which indicate a sanctified area. On the top step are offerings of fruit and sweet cakes. On the middle step is a cake of tofu and on the bottom step are various sewing accessories.

On this day, the seamstresses take a holiday and bring their old needles to the temple to stick them in a piece of tofu or konnyaku. Threads of the five Buddhist colors were used with the needles.


Well, the priest is incanting a sutra which reflects the passage of the needles from usage and invoking some kind of Buddhist blessing which would then be passed on to the ladies themselves. Because as they show respect to the needles of last year, they're really saying to them, you know, 'Thank you very much for what you've done, and please give us your power and your energy for the coming year so that our sewing skills can become improved.'
(c) 2002 Jim Metzner Productions

. shitateya 仕立屋 / 仕立て屋 tailor, seamstress in Edo .


In times of old, fishermen used this day to appease the Sea Gods by sinking broken fishhooks onto the ocean bed. The tradition is now a refined ceremony practiced by housewives, clothmakers and even fashion students, who take a day off work to show their gratitude. They do this by placing their old needles and pins into a Japanese sambo navel orange, while their broken counterparts are stuck into some tofu or konnyaku jelly - a somewhat bizarre, though well-respected, memorial service for little bits of metal.
source :  guides.hotelbook.com


kigo for the New Year

nuizome 縫初 (ぬいぞめ) first sewing
..... nuihajime 縫始(ぬいはじめ)
hatsuhari, hatsu hari 初針(はつはり)"first needle"
.... hari okoshi 針起し(はりおこし)
tachizome 裁初(たちぞめ)
This was done on the second of January. Usually a small bag was sewed.

. First Work - New Year Kigo .

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

nuibarishi, nuibari shi 縫針師 needleworker
People who did needlework were called
saihooshi 裁縫師 saiho-shi
Those who worked for the Samurai were called
nuibarishi 縫針師 or omonoshi 御物師 .
According to the garment they made the price for their work varied.

Since the Nara period, needles were made from iron, silver or copper. There are five needles in the 正倉院 Treasure House of the Shoso-In in Nara.

Many low-ranking Samurai made sewing needles as a side job. Thin pieces of metal were cut in the appropriate length and then filed to the best sharpness.

To make the hole in the needle (called the mimi 耳 "ear"), a special tool was used
maigiri 舞錐 "dancing drill" (mawashigiri 回し錐).

The hole was then smoothed with a very small and fine file.
After the needle was finished like this, it was once more heated in fire and then cooled quickly to make it strong.
The final check included to see it the needle was really straight, otherwise it was hit with a hammer to ajust the shape and then a final polish was applied.
Despite all this detailed work needles were rather cheap on the market, for about 50 Yen in our modern currency.
There were special vendors of sewing needles
nuibashi uri 縫針売.

Needles were also used to prick a finger and write a love-letter in blood, as told by Ihara Saikaku, Ibara Saikaku 井原西鶴.

. Edo shokunin 江戸の職人 Edo craftsmen .


- - - - - MATSUO BASHO - - - - -

haritate ya kata ni tsuchi utsu karakoromo

an acupuncurist
pounding into my shoulder;
the cast off robe

Tr. Barnhill

Written in 延宝3年 , Basho age 32.
The word haritate here refers to the tools of an acupuncturist.
karakoromo is a pun with a "Chinese robe"唐衣 or a cast-off robe 空衣, meaning a naked body.
The accupuncturist uses a small hammer to drive the needle into the skin. So Basho has his shoulder exposed to the doctor.

- This one about a needle is also about acupuncture:

. tsuki hana no gu ni hari taten kan no iri .

. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


aki no yo ya tabi no otoko no harishigoto

autumn evening--
a traveling man busy

Tr. Lanoue

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

- haiga by Nakamura Sakuo -


enshrined broken needles
my grandmother and me
a memory of my mind

Etsuko Yanagibori


hari osame chiratsuku yuki ni moodekeri

putting away the needles -
I walk to the temple
in lightly falling snow

Takahashi Awajijo 高橋淡路女
(1890 - 1955)
her teacher was Iida Dakotsu. She belonged to the 雲母 Unmo group.


haribako 針箱 sewing box "box for needles"

source : upp.so-net.ne.jp/kyoudoningyou/sagara...

In the tradition of 堤人形 Tsutsumi Ningyo, the eyes are almost triangular.

. Sagara tsuchi ningyoo 相良土人形 clay dolls from Sagara .


. Legends and Tales from Japan 伝説 - Introduction .

In 神奈川県 Kanagawa 横浜市 Yokohama
Once upon a time in a village there lived a beautiful young girl and every night, a handsome young man with carefully combed hair passed in front of her home. And as things go, one day the young girl was pregnant! The young man still did not say who he was and where his family lived.
So one night she stuck a sewing needle into his hair and from that day on, he never came back.
The people around her begun searching in the neighborhood and found a hole with a snake and a needle stuck in its head. For snakes the iron of a sewing needle is poison and the snake was already very weak. It just managed to tell them to prepare a bath with iris for his pregnant lover, so she would loose the baby of the huge serpent.

In 滋賀県 Shiga, 西浅井町 Nishiazai
there is the custom that a pregnant woman should not take part in a funeral. If for some reason she has to participate, she should carry a mirror and place a sewing needle in the hem of her robe, with the tip showing to the earth.

- reference : nichibun yokai database 妖怪データベース -

Related words


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Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

haritate 針立て

harisashi 針刺し

Nadelkissen, pin cushion, needle coushion

- - - -

hari tate ya / kata ni tsuchi utsu / kara koromo

Matsuo Basho

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

tsuki hana no / gu ni hari taten / kan no iri

Matsuo Basho

Anonymous said...

Hari-kuyo (Memorial Service for Broken Needles and Pins)
[February 8]

Awashima Shrine is surrounded by a semi-circular pond amid a grove on the west side the Kannon Main Hall. It is said to have been donated by Awashima Shrine located in Kada-mura, Kaisou-gun, Wakayama Prefecture before the Kyoho period about 290 years ago.

Long ago, fishermen in the Wakayama region used to refrain from fishing on February 8 and tried to appease the God of the Seas by sinking broken fish hooks in the ocean bed; this apparently led to the custom of laying broken needles and pins in Awashima Shrine and conducting a memorial service for them. On this day, housewives, tailors, and makers of tabi (Japanese socks) and bags and pouches take a day off and bring their needles to the shrine.

They place their old needles and pins in a sambo (Japanese navel orange) and stick the broken ones in tofu or konnyaku jelly and make an offering to the shrine. Today, this refined ceremony to show gratitude and appreciation attracts many women including students of Western and Japanese dressmaking.


Gabi Greve said...

shitateya 仕立屋 / 仕立て屋 tailor, seamstress
in Edo


Gabi Greve said...

haribako 針箱 sewing box "box for needles"