Hari-Kuyō, the Japanese Buddhist and Shinto Festival of Broken Needles, is an annual celebration of paying homage to the small things; a moment to thank the needles and pins for their service and showcase a strong attachment to extraordinarily ordinary objects.
Although Hari-Kuyō is a festival largely only celebrated in Japan, we all attach importance and feel respect and even affection towards objects no matter our geographical location or culture. Our selves and identities are, to a large extent, a reflection of the things—both humble objects and practical items—that we interact with and use. In The Meaning of Things, Hungarian-American psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi argues that humans are not only Homo Sapiens or Homo Ludens, but also Homo Faber, the makers and users of objects. The homes we build around us, the cups we drink from and the garments we adorn our bodies with, are not just mere objects or things, but extensions of our inner selves. When we lose our belongings in traumatic circumstances like natural disasters or thefts, we feel a loss that can be likened to the pain felt over a death of a loved one, as suggested in Grief and Mourning in Cross-Cultural Perspective by Paul Rosenblatt, Patricia Walsh and Douglas Jackson. Losing a meaningful object and losing a loved one have, in essence, the same root: losing a crucial part of one’s identity. Often an object isn’t just an object; it is a signifier of who we are.