|According to local tradition, Shirataki was a princess living at the Imperial Court during the Heian Period. A young man from the Kiryu area was sent to do service as a laborer at court, and while there, fell in love with the beautiful princess. Having won the respect of the court, he brought her back to "Kozuke no Kuni" - the old name for the Kiryu area - and married her. To help the local people, Shirataki taught them the art of weaving silk. As a result of her instruction, the weaving industry took firm hold and Kiryu owes its prosperity to her.
After her death, she was declared a god in the Shinto tradition, and Shirataki
shrine was constructed to enshrine her spirit. If one listens carefully
to the great boulder on the compound of the shrine, it is said one can
hear the sound of the weaving loom as Shirataki continues her art.
The shrine is also the site of the annual "Hari Kuro" ceremony
in which those who have old pins or needles used during the previous year
can give thanks for their service and retire them by inserting them in
a block of tofu. This ceremony used to be common in Gunma Prefecture where
silk production was a major industry, however, Shirataki Shrine is one
of the few remaining places in the Kanto area where it still occurs annually.
The shrine's "Dai-Dai Kagura" (a Shinto drama) which takes place each year in August has been declared an intangible cultural asset by the city of Kiryu.
|Hari Kuyo Ceremony
For over ten years Shirataki Shrine has been the scene of the "Hari Kuyo Ceremony in which seamstresses stick old, damaged needles into blocks of tofu. They pray for the repose of the needles, improvement in their sewing skills and safety from injury when sewing.