Harikuyo – The Festival of Broken Needles

In Japan, February 8th, is the celebration of ‘Harikuyo’ or The Festival of Broken Needles.

On this day, Japanese women gather at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples and give thanks to worn out, bent and broken needles and pins for their years of service in a funeral type ritual, where these tools are laid to rest in a bed of soft jelly or tofu – a tender act, intended to respect the soul of the object.

What really struck me about this lovely ritual, which goes back over 1500 years, is the value placed on small things, a respect for the ordinary and the everyday. If such love and consideration can be shown to the tiniest and seemingly insubstantial objects, then surely consideration and respect for all things – great and small – must follow.

This is in keeping with the Japanese idea of ‘Mottainai’ – traditionally an expression of regret for not recognising or respecting the essential dignity or sacredness of an object. In modern times, its meaning is more in keeping with our saying, ‘Waste Not, Want Not’.

Added to this is the idea of the needle as a woman’s companion – a witness and a solace to her sorrows, carrying her pain away as she works – this too is laid to rest with the needle at the end of its natural life. By showing respect for the soul of the tools she works with, its spirit and energy will pass on to her when it is put to rest.

A beautiful, mindful ritual and the inspiration behind one of the poems in the upcoming collection.

Our tools as writers, pen or pencil and paper, are so ubiquitous, so commonplace, it’s easy to take them for granted; this Japanese practice of consideration for even the most insignificant of objects makes me look at my work and my tools in a new and thoughtful way.

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