Tokyobling's Blog

Archery at Yasukuni Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on January 5, 2014

On the third of January every year there is a very formal archery ceremony at the Yasukuni shrine in central Tokyo. Only the very best practitioners of the Japanese archery called Kyudo are invited to take part in this ceremony.

Kyudo is also known as zen archery, and both the philosophy behind the act, the bow itself and the way to draw and aim is as different to western archery as flower arrangement is to speed skating (well, at least it feels like it). Hitting the target, which is much closer than a target in western archery, is of secondary importance. Hitting is just a function of stabilizing your body and mind, which in turn is just a function of breathing and drawing the string, which ultimately is nothing but a function of your mind, consisting of equal parts acceptance and determination. It doesn’t matter how well you aim if you didn’t pull the string in the correct fashion, and this form of archery is the only one where even blind people would be able to compete on equal terms.

In these formal archery ceremonies, it is customary for archers to bare one breast, in order to be able to control their bow without clothes getting in their way. These days this rule only applies to male archers though, and in non-ceremonial competitions it is done away with completely. Becoming good at Kyudo is an extremely long term project. Most archers are not comfortably good until they have practiced for decades, and you can see it at the ceremonies. I have practiced Kyudo myself, in my university days, so I can vouch for the fact that this is a sport that manages to be almost like meditation. More photos to come!













4 Responses

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  1. C said, on January 5, 2014 at 6:54 am

    Whoa, that’s all super hardcore! I tried archery at a Japanese high school and the students laughed their butts off! Pulling back that string is a lot harder than it looks. I’ll stick to marksmanship (which feels very Zen, as well)


    • tokyobling said, on January 29, 2014 at 4:29 am

      Hardcore indeed! Yes, I learned how to pull it, but I never learned how to pull it correctly… still spend most of my time with the practice rubber training bow! (^-^;)


  2. HeySJ said, on January 6, 2014 at 12:26 am

    The man in your pictures holds the bow as if it’s just another extension of his body. I notice the bow is always in perfect alignment with the left arm in some or all forms when held in that hand. Anyone else notice that? Looking forward to more pictures!


    • tokyobling said, on January 29, 2014 at 4:30 am

      Hi! Thanks for noticing! Yes I think you are right. More photos to come up! So much to blog, so little time! (^-^;)


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