Sunday, May 06, 2007


A few weeks ago, we went down to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine to see the Yabusame, or horseback archery, a martial discipline still trained on and demonstrated today. Requiring perfection in both horseback riding and archery, and was an incredible thing to watch. Keeping with tradition, the riders were dressed in ancient Samurai garb, and had to ride a 300 meter course, shooting at three targets along the way.

We arrived in time to meet some friends at Starbucks by the station, and then wandered down to the shrine. The place was packed when we got there, with most of the good seats (the ones that could see the targets) already taken. I found a decent spot in back of a seated family, and was able to defend it until the show got started. All in all, I was there for about an hour before anything started happening. And in reality, that was too late to really get a good spot. And don't even think about trying to sit on anyone's shoulders or climb a tree. This guy would come yell at you and tell you to get down...

Finally, the temple priest led a procession of attendants and horses down and back the length of the course. After that was complete, the six riders themselves came out. Mounting their horses at the west end of the course, they returned to the start point and prepared to ride.

The riders would come full tilt down the stretch of sandy riding course, loose an arrow, reach back for the second in time to shoot the next target, and finally retrieve the third to finish the set. I know that none of the riders missed the target nearest me (and right by the your head!). Each time they thundered by, I could hear a sharp "Thwack" as the arrow hit the target. This photo shows the arrow just at the moment of release...lucky shot.

While I was watching the riders, the others were wandering around, sampling the candied grapes and candied apples, yakisoba, takoyaki (octopus balls - that's like a hushpuppie with octopus, not the reproductive organs...though I'm sure you can find that too down at the big Tsukiji fish market) visiting the baked potato man, and enjoying the festival nature of the afternoon.

After a while, we had all seen enough, though, and went up the street to get a hamburger at the Kua Aina Hawaiian Hamburger shop. My dog-friend, Callie, Lori's dog, came with us, and attracted all sorts of attention as she waited by the street. She made at least 50 new friends as people walked by, sweet Golden Retriever that she is...

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