Monday, July 7, 2008

Yabusame. Horseback archery in Tsuwano


Yabusame tournaments are held at various locations throughout Japan, but only one is held in an original yabusame ground, and that is the one at Tsuwano at the Washibara Hachimangu Shrine.

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The course is 270 metres long, with a stone embankment running the length. The festival is held in April, and usually the cherry trees lining the course are in full bloom. Hachiman, the primary Kami of the shrine is, among other things, the god of archery.

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Yabusame, like Sumo and Kagura, is primarily performed for the entertainment of the Kami, which is why it is properly held at shrines. The morning is spent with ceremony, ritual, and pageantry, and the medieval costumes of the participants combined with the cherry blossoms makes for a very colorful affair.

He's almost ready.....

Horse, riders, and all the participants plus the grounds itself are all purified prior to the competition.

Once it begins, it all happens very quickly, the horse and rider taking just a few seconds to gallop down the course. The arrows have a heavy, rounded head so a loud "thunk" is heard if the target is hit.

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