January 2021

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針供養

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In Japan, there is a custom of cleaning up and holding a memorial service for tools that he or she used over the year. A typical event of holding a memorial service for tools is the "Hari Kuyo," a requiem service for broken needles. Needles that have been bent, rusted, or broken while sewing are the objects of this ceremony.

Needle has been an important tool in the age of kimono. In the Edo period, this festival became popular as a way to appreciate the labor of needles and pray for the improvement of sewing. Needlework was a very important job for women, so, to express their gratitude, they would stab it into soft tofu or konnyaku, and then wash them down the river or give them to shrines, hoping that their sewing techniques would improve. This is because sewing needles are often used for thick or hard things, and so sticking them into soft things is a way of paying tribute to the needles.

Although there may be fewer and fewer people sewing at home these days, needle offerings are held in great numbers at temples and shrines all over the country. Needleworkers, as well as companies and educational institutions that are related to clothing, and Japanese and Western sewing consider the event to be important.

In eastern Japan, the event is usually held on February 8th, and in western Japan, it is usually held on December 8th. Both dates are called "kotoyoka" and were considered to be "days of sobriety" and days on which "needlework should be taken a rest." In eastern Japan, kotoyoka is also a day to keep oneself safe from yokai (monsters) and evil gods that visit the house.

"Hari Kuyo Kai" (needle memorial service) is held at the Awashima Hall of Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Taito Ward, on February 8th. Itsukushima Shrine in Sumoto City, also holds a ceremony on February 8th to pray for improvement in sewing. In Kyoto, the ceremony is held at Horin-ji Temple in Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto City, which is also held on December 8th.

If you are interested in this traditional custom, you may take a look at bowls and ladles to boil or scoop the tofu or konnyaku at our website. Tojiki Tonya's flat earthen pot and Tsujiwa Kanaami's Yudofu Shakushi are recommended. Please, by all means, have a look!

Tojiki Tonya's Oven Hiranabe
https://www.shokunin.com/en/tojikitonya/iga.html
Tsujiwa Kanaami's Yudofu Shakushi
https://www.shokunin.com/en/tsujiwa/yudofu.html

References:
https://dime.jp/genre/851642/ 
https://www.i-nekko.jp/matsuritoasobi/fuyu/hari-kuyo/
https://idea1616.com/harikuyo/
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%87%9D%E4%BE%9B%E9%A4%8A

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"Natto mochi" refers to freshly pounded or baked rice cakes containing fermented soybeans inside that is seasoned with soy sauce and other ingredients.

It is said that the origins of natto can be traced back to the time when Emperor Kōgen, who was practicing asceticism at Jōshoko-ji Temple in the Keihoku district of Kyoto City's Ukyo Ward, ate boiled beans wrapped in straw bracts that were presented by villagers, which as the days passed, began to forms long threads and became delicious.

The Keihoku area is also the birthplace of the Yamaguni-tai, who fought in the Boshin War, and there is an anecdote that these farmers brought natto with them when they went to war. In an era when food was hard to come by, natto, a valuable source of protein, was wrapped in rice cakes that were good for the stomach, and the farmers and soldiers loved to eat them. In those days, natto mochi were as big as a face, and were eaten over the three days of the New Year.

Until the mid-1960s, every family made tsuto natto. Nowadays, the houses making natto have almost disappeared, but the custom of eating natto mochi and tofu miso soup on the third day of the New Year still remains. In addition, in the Keihoku area and Hiyoshi Town, residents' associations and farmers' unions are working together to educate the public about "natto mochi," which are made with locally grown glutinous rice and soybeans.

There are many ways to make natto mochi, such as kneading natto into the rice cake when making it, or inserting natto into the rice cake after making it, depending on the region or family. If you sprinkle salt on the natto the day before and let it blend over the night, you may enhance its flavor. It can be cut into pieces and eaten grilled without dipping it in anything, but you can also enjoy it with a little bit of soy sauce or by coating it with rice flour or potato starch and frying it in oil.

If you are interested in preparing natto mochi at home, you may grill the rice cakes on Tsujiwa Kanaami's Tetsuki Yakiami, and serve it with Ichiyougama's plate or Appi Urushi Studio's Flat Bowl, both of which are authentic products fully expressing the beauty of Japanese craftsmanship. Please have a look at our website for more details!

Tsujiwa Kanaami's Tetsuki Yakiami
https://www.shokunin.com/en/tsujiwa/tetsuki.html
Ichiyougama's Plate
https://www.shokunin.com/en/ichiyou/plate.html
Appi Urushi Studio's Flat Bowl
https://www.shokunin.com/en/appi/bowl.html

References:
https://www.maff.go.jp/j/keikaku/syokubunka/k_ryouri/search_menu/menu/nattomochi_kyoto.html 
https://morinokyoto.jp/dentou_gyouji/nattoumochi/
http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/yamashiro/no-ryori/moti.html
https://jakyoto.com/recipe/%E7%B4%8D%E8%B1%86%E3%82%82%E3%81%A1/

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m+’s Rotolo Suede
https://www.shokunin.com/en/mpiu/rotolo_suede.html