Funeral For A Pin


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.


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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