Monday, April 21, 2008


The final day of the Kamakura festival was last Sunday and I got to see the yabusame(horseback archery), at the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine.

Before the yabusame starts, the horses and archers parade before the crowd in traditional samurai dress. Then when it begins the archers ride along a three hundred metre long pathway, galloping at full pace, shooting at three targets which are about three to four metres away from the track. This requires a tremendous amount of skill and I have to admit that it was especially thrilling to watch.

In the era of Minamoto Yoritomo, cavalry battle was the most common method of warfare and his warriors were amongst the most skillful.

To help his cavalry improve their archery skills Yoritomo introduced this competition in 1187 and to win the contest was a great honour. On the downside however, missing the target could result in the archer having to commit seppuka(ritual suicide).

Here's a short film.

You can see all the photos here.

here for the Takeda School Kyuubadou(a yabusame school in Japan who put on many of the events).