Hari kuyo, Temple Sensõ-ji, Tokyo © Michele Walker, 2005
Harikuyo is a solemn rite of respect and thanksgiving in which the worn and broken sewing needles used in the previous year are retired to a sacred resting place.
"There is a very great respect for everyday objects in Japanese culture. And there are many objects that are treated in the same way as the needles of the ladies who made the kimonos. For example, you have in Japan the incan, the seal, that in a sense represents a person's life. And of course they become worn over the years and they have to be replaced. But it would be considered sacrilege just to throw it away. And so when the time comes, the proper respectful way to deal with it is to take it to a place -- to a shrine or a temple -- where there is a small burial ground for those family seals."
"The basic point is this enormous sense of respect for daily objects and particularly objects of work. And this is part of what I would call the subconscious popular religious culture of the Japanese, that focus on life in almost any form. And when they do come to this particular event, it is taken very seriously."
Professor Stuart Picken directs the Japan studies program at International Christian University in Tokyo.
Some people look upon the ceremony as an observance of respect for needlework skills as well.
"In doing the research that we did for the book, we came across this seemingly antiquated, yet enchanting 400-year-0ld Japanese tradition with roots in Buddhism. I can not pretend to truly understand this tradition, but I believe in the underlying ideas of being thankful for my work, and for the tools that I worked hard to achieve my goals. I think that taking time to pause, reflect and look forward towards another year of thoughtful and improved stitching recognizes the value of humility and the sense that I can not do anything completely alone. I need these small needles and I am thankful for them. They have earned their rest".
David Boyd for the Japan Foundation