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.
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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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!