Needle Mass

Sensoji Temple, Awashimado Hall

Unique religious practice still lives on

Have you ever visited Sensoji Temple in Asakusa? It is one of the most popular tourist spot in Tokyo. Besides Kaminari-Mon Gate, Nakamise Street, Hozomon Gate and Main Hall, there are several small worship halls and structures in the grounds of Sensoji Temple.

Awashimado Hall is one of them. The hall was dedicated to Awashima Jyonin, protective deity of women. At this hall, a needle memorial service, or a needle mass (Harikuyo in Japanese) is annually held on 8th February. Visitors can observe this charming custom here.

Many women visit the hall and place broken or unusuable sewing needles in soft bean curd (tofu), offering a prayer of thanks for their use.

The tofu makes a soft cushion wherein the broken needles can be set to rest. It is a soothing place for the needles to give spiritual comfort and to live in comfortably after their days of hard service.

In Japan, the unique view of religion is expressed in the phrase, “God exists even in tools and tools have lives. The view is seen in the customs of having a memorial service for broken needles.