JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when traveling.

Image search results - "archery"
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The 25th Asakusa Yabusame horseback archery was held on April 21, 2007 at Sumida Park.
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Parallel to Sumida River, the archery course is straight and narrow, stretching from the Tobu Line bridge to Kototoi Bridge.
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The course has three targets which the archers will shoot arrows at.
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Raised dirt along the archery course.
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First, the horses, archers, and attendants parade along the entire course.
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Wooden targets
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Archer
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Yabusame archer
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Deer skin
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Setting up the wooden target.
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Bull's eye. This is the third and last target along the course. It is quite difficult to hit all three targets, especially the last one.
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The horseback archer raises his bow and arrow high in the air as he nears the target.
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Arrow in mid-air. Asakusa Yabusame.
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Dead on!
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The archers return to the starting point.
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This is the second target at the center of the archery course. This is where the biggest crowd was.
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Woman archer misses her target.
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The crowd favorite was this high school girl. See the arrow pierce the wooden target.
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Local high school girl proudly rides back to the starting point amid applause.
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Woman archer
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This is the first target which is near the starting point. Love it when the target shatters like that.
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The wooden target boards have an envelope of confetti stuck on the back so it explodes when the target breaks apart.
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Bingo! Also see my YouTube video here.
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Right after hitting the first target, the archer starts to pull out another arrow for the next target.
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Don't climb up any trees or step into the azalea bushes please. この叔父、つつじに入っちゃダメですよ。
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The main event was yabusame horseback archery.
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Huge crowd. Need to get here early to get a good viewing spot.
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Yabusame is one of Japan's hallmark traditional arts and commonly staged for visiting heads of state at Meiji Shrine.Former US president Ulysses Grant saw it with Emperor Meiji at Ueno Park in 1879, Ronald Reagan in 1983 at Meiji Shrine, George W. Bush (with PM Koizumi) at Meiji Shrine in 2001, and Obama (with Caroline Kennedy) at Meiji Shrine in 2014.
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At the start of the horse track, the fan bearer (扇方 ogikata) uses a large fan to signal that the track is clear for the next archer to run.
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It takes about 20 sec. for the horse to complete the run. It's very difficult for the archer to hit all three targets in a single run, but someone usually does it.
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These archers belong to the Takeda School of mounted archery. They are based in Miura, Kanagawa where they practice almost weekly. They have about 60 members.
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Delighted to see a few women archers too.
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Delighted to see a few women archers at Meiji Shrine yabusame horseback archery on Nov. 3.
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Yabusame is a centuries-old Shinto ceremony to pray for peace in the land and rich harvests. The mounted archery is preceded by a Shinto prayer ceremony. It originated with samurai who had to be skillful mounted archers in medieval battles before guns were introduced.
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There's a 210-meter straight horse track within the shrine's spacious grounds. The track has three targets and each horseback archer gallops at full speed and tries to hit each target with an arrow.
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After all the archers complete their runs, they trot back to the starting point and receive their shot arrows along the way. Each archer's arrows have a unique arrow tip (shape and/or color) so they know which is theirs.They do a few runs and the event lasts for about 2 hours.
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Besides the costumes, the saddles and stirrups are very different from western ones.
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Her arm guard bears her family crest and the sleeve's cuff has a dragonfly that is an auspicious symbol for courage and never retreating or running away. (Dragonflies don't fly backwards.)
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The archer shoots at the first target. The second target is in the middle of the track and the third is toward the end of the track.
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This is Matayoshi Akemi (又吉あけ美). Her long, black hair made her stand out as "A woman archer!" as many exclaimed. They had seven horses that are specially trained for yabusame. Each one has a name. The arrows have blunt wooden tips.
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First they used square wooden targets and then these small targets made of ceramic dishes.
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Yabusame is much more impressive when you see it in person. The costumes, the speed, and the excitement of seeing the archer hitting the target is just so impressive.
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Her formal yabusame kimono (yoroi hitatare 鎧直垂) is light blue. Her left side is covered with a black arm guard (igote 射籠手) to make it easier to shoot the arrow. On her left side, she also wears a tachi sword and the shorter dagger (maezashi 前差し). Right above her forearm, you can see a coil of spare bow string (tsurumaki 弦巻).
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On her legs is a summer pelt of deer fur (muka-baki 行縢). It supposed to cushion any fall from the horse. Fortunately, no one fell off the horse this day.
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When I saw yabusame at Meiji Shrine for the first time years ago, Mifune Toshiro (center) was still alive and he was there. I think he was the bugyo (master of the yabusame proceedings 奉行).Behind him, you can see a white tarp for VIPs. They were sitting in front of the second target. Many foreign diplomats are invited to this event and they sit here.
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Actor Toshiro Mifune presides over the yabusame horseback archery at Meiji Shrine. The first and last time I saw this living legend in person. He was a student of the Takeda School of mounted archery and still has a close connection with the shrine.I think he donated something for the shrine's yabusame.
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Actor Toshiro Mifune at Meiji Shrine.
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Namura Shrine's Sekku Festival's highlight is the yabusame horseback archery. There's a path in front of the Romon Gate for horses. They had two archery targets set up along the path.
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Yabusame horseback archery target.
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The festival started in the afternoon with children carrying mikoshi portable shrines.
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They carried the mikoshi around the Haiden Hall, then went around the neighborhood.
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Meanwhile, a bunch of horses standby in the trees.
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The yabusame (horseback archery) part of the festival finally started at around 4 pm. There were several horseback riders, but only this woman was going to shoot arrows.
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She did a few practice runs first.
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She missed the target the first two times.
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It seemed to be a provincial festival with few tourists. It wasn't so crowded and most people were local people.
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She shoots the arrow...
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This one hit the target.
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Bull's eye. Compared to other yabusame that I've seen, she rode the horse pretty slow.
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After the archer's successful run, the other riders just trotted past a few times without shooting any arrows.
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At least two riders took a spill and fell from the horse. No injuries though, and I filmed one of the riders who fell. See my video below.
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Horseback archer.
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They had seven horses.
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After the yabusame, they carried the mikoshi back.
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Yabusame horseback archery is held on the first Sunday in June from 12:30 pm. (Used to be held on Nov. 3.) I believe this is Shiga's only authentic yabusame.
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The yabusame horse track. They first hold a Shinto ceremony at the shrine.
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Official yabusame website here.
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Reserved seating available for a few hundred yen.
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The archers first held a prayer ceremony in the Naihaiden Hall.
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After the ceremony, they leave the worship hall and head for the horses.
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The first target.
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Three targets and each archer galloped at full speed to try and hit all three targets. Each archer made several runs and it was dramatic to watch.
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I came to see this to pray for a good Year of the Horse in 2014, the following year.
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Hit target
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Resupply of arrows on the way back.
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Now a much smaller target.
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