Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yabusame 流鏑馬 #1

The Yabusame Festival in Tokyo's Sumida Park is an impressive display of horseback archery. The fiendishly difficult ritual, a part of a Shinto rite, sees mounted archers wearing traditional hunting clothing of the Kamakura Period charge down a single narrow 208-meter-long track to shoot at three wooden targets arranged at certain intervals. It is believed that the sound of an arrow striking the wooden target transfers the courage of the archer to the audience. The archer mainly controls the horse with his knees, as he needs both hands to draw and shoot his bow. As he approaches a target, he brings his bow up and draws the arrow past his ear before letting the arrow fly with a deep shout. The arrow is blunt and turnip-shaped in order to make a louder sound when it strikes the board. If the board is struck, it will splinter and explode with a confetti-like shower of sakura petals as it falls to the ground. To hit all three targets is considered an admirable accomplishment.

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