Airdate: Feb 09, 1998
Scientist: Prf. Stuart D. B. Picken
HARIKUYO: Respect for Life
The celebration of Harikuyo reveals a broad respect for life in Japanese culture.
We're listening to the sounds of monks chanting at a Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Japan, as part of the annual celebration of Harikuyo, the Festival of Broken Needles. 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. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.
"Harikuyo literally means 'needle memorial service,' and it fits into the pattern of memorial services conducted on behalf of people or objects that no longer function."
Professor Stuart Picken directs the Japan studies program at International Christian University in Tokyo.
"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."
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.