More action packed photos of the grand Yabusame (mounted horse archery) event at Asaskusa’s Sumida Koen from a couple of weeks ago. I was too busy covering other parts of the event to be able to stand in line for tickets to the proper seats but I was just in time to get a good standing spot (free of charge and no lining up necessary) just at the beginning of the yabusame run. Close enough to smell the horses and get having to dusting of my camera and clothes after each run even. My first impression of Yabusame was similar to my first impression of sumo wrestling, in that there is a great deal of ceremony, parading and ritual, and in between fast and furious violent action that is often over in the blink of an eye. Yabusame is very much like that. In the photos it might seem almost leisurely but in real time the horses are gone past before you know it. On previous years I have had photos where the arrow is still in the air on its way to the target while the horse and archers has completely passed out of the frame even! Thank you Nikon, for making these high tech fast shooting cameras for us!
One weekend a year is heaven for all fans of Yabusame, the traditional mounted horse archery of Japan, and easily one the rarest forms of martial arts in the country. It is the weekend when you can see the archery in Asakusa on Saturday and the traditional show in Kamakura on Sunday. This year I only had time to visit one of them and so I picked the one in Asakusa. It has been years since I visited and it seems to be much more well organized these days with orderly lines of people, mostly tourists, waiting from early in the morning to get tickets to the best seats. In my opinion, the best seats are just before or about 10 meters of one of the three traditional targets.
Although the form of the sport has remained the same for at least a millennia, the horses have not. The traditional Japanese samurai horse has largely disappeared and been replaced by much bigger and much faster horses, making the sport many times as dangerous and difficult as it used to be. The larger modern horses can cover the distance between two targets more than twice as fast as the smaller horses of the older times, giving the archers very little time to draw their arrows and aim for the targets. The faster the horse, the less likely the archer is to hit his target. It is a very action filled sport, as the audience is just a couple of yards away from the thundering horses, often close enough to get showered in dust!
I will post more photos during the week so stay tuned, but for now please enjoy the horses, the archers and the colorful costumes they are wearing!
Between Sumida River and Asakusa Metro station you’ll find the large department store, Matusya Asakusa. It is situated on top of the Tsukuba Express station and inside the building itself is another station of the Tobu line. The rooftop has a small open space which offers rather good views of the Tokyo Skytree. Even at night the station looks pretty good.
A few years ago when the world famous Sensoji temple in Tokyo got a major face lift the the site became the undisputed tourist mecca of Japan, rivaled perhaps only by the Shibuya street crossing. Still, at least in my eyes the grand Asakusa temple wins in my book. Most tourists flock there during the day to enjoy the shops, souvenirs, eateries and throngs of people. Personally I much prefer the temple well after closing time, after the crowds are gone and the temple structures are bathed in a wonderfully warm red light. When I guide friends and relatives around Tokyo I always make sure to include a last stop at the Sensoji, before heading back home.