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), visit 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
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for
Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had
6 thoughts on “Funeral For A Pin”
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!
Oh, how wonderful! I must share this with my quilting/sewing/fiber arts buds!
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.
I’d love to see it. Meanwhile I’m confronting each new block of tofu in my fridge, wondering if it contains needles. 😉