At the budo, or martial arts, tournament and exhibition at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine a few weeks ago I saw this wonderful performance of Yabusame or mounted horse archery. I have written previously about the glory of Yabusame (I am completely in love with this sport) so if you are interested in the details of the sport head over to that post from 2011. This year’s Yabusame at Meiji Shrine was slightly unusual due to the high number of very talented female archers. You could tell from the excited reactions of the audience when they were being introduced that female archers make a wildly popular sport even more popular! The biggest drawback with Yabusame is that it is a very audience unfriendly sport. For the effort involved in setting things up and the costs involved, very few people can actually see it and the most devoted audience members had already staked out their spots on the grass 5-6 hours before the event even started! The action is also very rapid – the announcer will announce that an archer has left the staging area on the left, you hear the thunder of the hooves and in a split second the horse thunders past you – a cheer from the crowd if there is a hit, once, twice, maybe three times. It is all over very quickly and if you lose you concentration you might miss the best bit. I was plonked firmly at the front end of the audience section, wedged between two other photographers so I go to see the horses right the moment before had reached full speed, but even with my fast camera I missed many passes. Still, there is no sport on Earth like Yabusame and it’s an incredible rush to be within touching distance of horse and rider thundering past!
At last weeks budo tournament in Tokyo’s Meijijingu grand shrine I saw this procession of archers making their way from the shrine ceremony to the archery, kyudo, range or dojo. There had been a big tournament and hundreds of archers had been ranked and tested. Unfortunately as much as I wanted I wasn’t able to gain access to the archery range itself. Maybe next year! They are wearing ceremonial clothes and carrying shrine ornaments and holy bows. Of course I couldn’t help myself from taking snapping a photo of a little boy eager to test his running skills next to the procession. Don’t worry, his mother was right behind him!
At the ancient martial arts festival in Tokyo’s Meijijingu Shrine yesterday I saw many more variations of Kobudo than I have ever seen in my life. The Kobudo is the ancient form of ordinary Budo, which includes modern Karate, Kendo, Judo, Aikido, Kyudo etc., which is called Shinbudo or Gendaibudo or just Budo. All of the Kobudo predate 1868 and are generally fiercer more combat-like with the express purpose of actually winning a battle, hence the sometimes sneaky methods like throwing a knife before drawing your sword to engage the enemy, or female combatants using weighted chains to ensnare enemy warriors. But the most photogenic weapons is as always the Japanese sword, the katana. Here are some of the participants demonstrating cutting techniques on rolled up mats. I am not very good at kobudo or budo, but I am sure someone would be able identify the particular school or technique they are using from just seeing these photos.