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Funeral For A Pin

NeedlesTofu

In Japan, February 8th is the day that old and broken needles are laid to rest. Anyone whose work involves sewing stuff together gathers at Awashima Shrine in Asakusa for a requiem service to thank their old needles and pins for good and faithful service.

During the harikuyo memorial service, seamstresses, tailors, shoemakers, and milliners approach a giant block of tofu and push one of their old needles into it, giving their trusty tools a soft spot to rest in the afterlife. The rest of the year’s broken pins and needles are collected in bins at the entrance to the shrine, then all of them are poured by the priests into a sort of Needle Crypt, to join the rusting bones of the Worthy Needles Who Have Gone Before.

NeedlesCollecting
Bringing the year’s broken and bent needles to the shrine for honorable burial.
A fraction of the good and faithful pins collected at the harikuyo memorial,
A fraction of the good and faithful pins collected at the harikuyo memorial, whose spirits will soon be speeded on their way to Needle Heaven.

If you happen to be in Tokyo on February 8th and want to see the Needle Memorial (or just want to visit the Asakusa area, which is a fantastic traditional neighborhood), a map is on my travel website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had. The Awashima Shrine is to the left of the main Senso-ji temple building at the end of the Nakamise-dori souvenir shop street. Walk through the beautiful garden with the koi pond next to the main Senso-ji temple building and you’ll see Awashima straight ahead.

And just for fun, here are the eleven strangest shrines in Tokyo, with all the inside scoop on the resident gods’ superpowers

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Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

6 thoughts on “Funeral For A Pin Leave a comment

  1. I really do love Japanese mentality! This is perfect =)
    I hope someone will care giving us “a soft spot to rest in the afterlife”

    • Me too! I have to admit, when I have to throw away something that has served me well – a pair of beloved shoes, for example – I can’t bear to just toss them in the garbage can. I have to wrap them in a nice shopping bag so they don’t have to mingle with the dryer lint and coffee grounds. (Trying to stop short of saying, “so they don’t know they’re being thrown away” but let’s not go there. heh.) It would be so much nicer if I could take them to a shrine to be cremated or buried honorably!

    • Thanks for the share, Reva! ^^ And I wish you could have seen the parade of seamstresses bringing their broken pins and needles to this shrine! All I had to do to figure out which of the many shrines at Senso-ji was hosting the ceremony was to follow the groups of kimono-wearing women, who were out in force with their broken pins and needles.

  2. I’d love to see it. Meanwhile I’m confronting each new block of tofu in my fridge, wondering if it contains needles. 😉

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