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Published on 12.25.2015
When people think of samurai, they usually think of cool vibrant armor and the famous Japanese katana, but actually earlier samurai were also extremely skilled archers. In the Heian Period (794-1180), many large battles were fought with horseback archers firing back and forth at each other. The first shogunate Minamoto no Yoritomo noticed that his soldiers archery skills were lacking after the Genpei Wars ended and decided to organize yabusame to get his soldiers prepared.
Yabusame was created as a way to appease and entertain Shinto gods in the hopes that they would bless Japan with prosperity. Archers must run their horse down a 255-meter track controlling the horse with just their legs, because both hands are required to fire an arrow. The arrows are blunt and rounded in order to cause a loud sound when they strike the target.
The targets are meant to replicate the height and area for a killing blow. Hitting all three targets is thought to be quite the remarkable accomplishment. Yabusame is often thought of as more of a ritual rather than a sport due to it's ceremonial approach and religious aspects.
Some of the best places to catch yabusame are in the home of the original shogunate, Kamakura, as well as Shimogamo Shrine. If you are wanting to catch the ritualistic Yabusame, it is best to keep an eye out in early May during the Aoi Festifal.
Source: Tokyo Tourist Association
Tokyo Taito Ward Sumida Park