Tokyobling's Blog

Yabusame – Ritual Mounted Archery

Posted in Animals, Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on April 26, 2014

Last of the series of Yabusame photographs I got at the Ogano Spring festival in Saitama prefecture just about a week ago. The horses used by the archers were all traditional Japanese breeds, small and hardy requiring little fodder and fearless in battle. All of them came very close to extinction half a century ago when they were deemed to small for the war effort and the government was focusing on stronger breeds.

The speed can be seen in some of the photos: by the time the archer has released the arrow and the splintered boards of the target start flying apart the horse is already well past the target, speeding towards the next one in line. The boards were collected by the judges and marked by a local calligraphist. They were then sold to the audience to be displayed in their private home shrines as a talisman of protection for the family and home.

The photos may look a little dark. I had to dial the exposure way down to get any sort of contrast, the mountain sun and air bathed the sports field where the ceremony took place in a bright even light that seemed to cast few shadows.


















7 Responses

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  1. Nature on the Edge said, on April 26, 2014 at 5:45 am

    Fascinating scenes; the horses are as individual as the riders; love the headgear and was interested to see a woman participant. It must take a fair degree of skill to fire off arrows at speed.


    • tokyobling said, on April 28, 2014 at 12:55 am

      In the old days only men would take part in this ceremony but as the country grew more peaceful more women started joining in and in many ceremonies about half the women are riders. I can’t think of many sports that would be more difficult – it is my dream to try this out some day! Especially if I can use a native Japanese breed! (^-^)


  2. aussie55 said, on April 26, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Reblogged this on Ethnographic materials ML..


  3. Jonelle Patrick said, on April 26, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    The hats!


  4. Timi said, on May 8, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I fell for the horses O_O especially the full white one, simply amazing.


    • tokyobling said, on May 9, 2014 at 12:17 am

      The horses were quite something! I am usually not into the smaller breeds but these look like the horses I used to ride in Central Asia. Very nice!


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