Hari Kuyo at Horin-ji – an Ancient Needle Memorial Service in Kyoto



Japanese people cherish things for many years. Kimono is the best example. People tailor it according to growth and fashion at the time. After that, when the fabric weakens, they reuse it as a futon or a pouch. Thus, people use their own belongings for a long time. Hari Kuyo is a special ceremony that shows this Japanese traditional trait.

In the background, there are hard-workers -the needles. Since the Japanese lifestyle essentially needs the big power of needles, people have created a Needle Memorial Service. Even today, you can see that at Hourin-ji temple in Kyoto twice a year.

History of Needle Memorial Service

 Hari Kuyo is a memorial service for broken needles. Hundred years ago, needleworks were very important for women in Japan. Thus, such custom developed. The schedule has regional differences: it takes place on February 8th in the East of Japan, while it usually takes place on December 8th in the West. In Hourin-ji, it takes place on both dates.

Harikuyo circa 1960/日本語: 1960年頃の針供養

This custom started in the Edo period (1603-1867). About 100 years ago, you could see such customs in each household. Sadly, these customs gradually disappeared with the decrease of needlework. However, you can still find it in some temples or dressmaking schools.

According to historical references, Hourin-ji Hari Kuyo started with the imperial command of the Emperor to supply the needles of the Imperial Family. Even now, we are offering the hands that we kept from the Imperial Family during the event every year.

Kitani Chigusa (1895-1947). Source:

The Process of Hari Kuyo

Throughout the whole festival, people thank the needles and wish for the improvement of their skills and safety. The process is very simple. At the beginning, they put broken needles on a soft surface like Tofu or Konnyaku (yam cake). People of the past days were humorous, so they considered it as comfortable beds for needles.

On the day of the service, a lot of people (mainly women) who use a needle at their work such as dressmakers and textile manufacturers bring their broken needles to the temple. You will also find some people who wear Kimono!

Image courtesy of 豊瀬源一

About Hourin-ji Temple

Kyoto is a historical city and it is full of old shrines and temples. Hourin-ji is one of the oldest temples, founded in 713. In 829, Dosho, a disciple of Kukai (the founder of Japanese Buddhism), placed a Buddha statue there. This temple was popular among religious craftsmen. That’s why the needle memorial service started in this temple.

Moreover, the Buddha statue in the temple named “Koku-zou Sonzou”, is thought of as a God of knowledge. Thus, this temple is also famous for “Thirteen years old visit.” On April 13th, 13 years old boys and girls visit the Buddha to give their regards and pray for future knowledge, happiness, and health.

Image courtesy of  KENPEI

Participate in the Ceremony!

During the festival, you can experience the ritual by stabbing a big needle in Konnyaku.  Of course, you can be a participant. You can bring your own old needles for this event. Please offer them before the tablet of the deceased and reward its service. However, please refrain from bringing hypodermic needles!

Try “Amazake” and Warm-up!

On the grounds of the temple, you can try sweet sake – Amazake. Amazake is a Japanese traditional drink made of fermented rice. It smells like usual sake, but amazake is non-alcohol. So, you can enjoy it with your sons and daughters.

Amazake tastes very sweet. As it warms your mind and body, a lot of people drink it on cold days. Also, it is effective for diet and beauty. This sweet drink is popular among women. On events at shrines and temples, they usually sell amazake. It would be fun to enjoy drinking comparison of sweet sake.

Details and Access

Date: December 8th and February 8th every year

When: 13:00 – 14:00

Place: Horin-ji Temple

Address: 68, Arashiyama Kokuzouyama-cho, Nishi-gyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto

Fee: free

Official website (Japanese only):


From Hankyu Railway (Arashiyama Line):

Get off at Arashiyama Sta. → Walk about 3 min

From Randen/Keifuku Electric Railroad (Arashiyama Line):

Get off at Arashiyama Sta. → Walk about 5 min

From JR Sagano Line:

Get off at Saga Arashiyama Station → Walk about 15 min

From Kyoto City Bus:

Get on 11, 28, 91, 93 lines→Get off at Arashiyama (or Arashiyama Sta.-mae) Stop → Walk about 5 min

Closing Remarks

Every day needles work hardly behind you, even today in the 21st Century. Using this event as an opportunity, please tell your appreciation to needles. Even if you don’t have your own needles, your clothes and bags wouldn’t exist without this instrument. Please visit the Hari Kuyo and say thank you to needleworkers all over the world.

Come and see Kyoto at night with your own eyes. The local guides are here to help! If you need any help and would like a local guide to tell you more about Hourin-ji Hari Kuyo event or even more, please check the banner below! Walk around the city with us and discover all the edges of Japanese culture!

An Ultimate Idea Source for Your Kyoto Stay!

Kyoto is an old capital of Japan and a cultural and historical mecca for everyone who visits this country. It is the most popular city among tourists and a must-see destination indeed. Kyoto boasts over 4000 historical places including shrines, temples, and attracts visitors with its charming atmosphere of an ancient city. This city is great for shopping, bicycling, hiking, museums, galleries, green spaces, and features many famous festivals. In the following article, you will find 100 things and many ideas on how to spend your time in Kyoto! Please, have a look, URL:

Do You Know What to Do in Kyoto this Winter?

Winter might be not the most popular season to visit the ancient capital of Japan. Indeed, the weather is severe and it is much colder in Kyoto than in Osaka or Tokyo. However, this season allows you to avoid big tourist crowds, see famous sightseeing spots from a different perspective, and feel the atmosphere of this charming city even deeper. The following article summed up the most interesting events happening in Kyoto this winter. I am sure, you will find something to fit in your travel plans!


The Real Kyoto Gion Festival

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Of course, Kyoto boasts many outstanding events to watch and participate, and you should do it when you have a chance! However, the original Gion festival with much bigger floats takes place every year in Kyoto in July. I am sure you will enjoy one of the most popular Gion festivals in Japan! For more information about Kyoto`s Gion Matsuri click on the link below!

Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!


Sakura in Kyoto

Cherry blossoms are an essential part of Japanese culture. And, viewing cherry blossoms (Hanami) is very popular in Japan during the spring. This is because cherry blossoms, which the Japanese call “Sakura” are stunning in Japan at the time.

If you are planning to visit Japan this spring, and if you want to see more cherry blossoms in another area. I would like you to check the Best cherry blossom spots in Kyoto. Kyoto is one of the best places to see cherry blossom and Japanese culture.

Here`s the link. URL: 

Osaka is very close to Kyoto. It will be a miss if you don’t visit Osaka to see cherry blossoms when you are in the Kansai area in spring. Please check the following article to find out the best cherry blossoms viewing spots in Osaka and Kansai!



Kyoto and Osaka have many beautiful spots to see Cherry blossoms. However, other areas also have excellent places for hanami. Tokyo features many of those spots as well! If you are in Tokyo around spring and looking for a place to see cherry blossoms, Why don’t you check the following article?



I am a university student in Kyoto, majoring in Japanese art history. I have held international event to learn deep Kyoto together. It’s my pleasure if you read my article and get interested more about our culture.

Written on

Other Events You May Like