Arrows and Ish
Updated: Apr 17, 2019
In a little under two weeks, Taito City will present their annual Kusajishi and Yabusame event in Asakusa. I have attended these events two times and I have enjoyed them both. Last time, I even got some decent pictures and video, you can enjoy them on my Youtube channel Go check it out now!.
Are you interested? Well, this year (2019), the event is set on Saturday, April 20.
But what is Yabusame? Well, it's horseback archery. And last year, the event included a kusajishi, standing traditional Japanese archery.
The Kusajishi, Grass Deer Archery, has origins from 1194. The outfits reminded me of the nether-spirits in Ronin Warriors. (If you don't know what Ronin Warriors is, this is the wrong site for you and/or you are too young. )
The event began as a training remedy for a bad deer hunting expedition. It is the standing form of the Ogasawara school's Yabusame, originating in the Kamakura shogunate. So, it's super old. In Kusajishi, the target is in the shape of a deer (poor Bambi). The contenders line up and have three arrows each to try and hit it, and the line goes around three times. If a contender hits a bullseye, they have a bit of banter with announcer. It was interesting but the setup takes so long so it's only interesting for about 30mins. It's free to watch though, so you should have a look. This year it starts at 11:45. If you get there early you could follow the procession in, but you'll have a better view if you just wait ring side.
The main event, Ogasawara style horseback archery and the name 'yabusame' date back a few years before Kusajishi, 1187. Before that, the term for horseback archery was 'yabasemuma', or so the pamphlet from last year tells me. So, while horseback archery existed well before the Kamakura shogunate, the Ogasawara style that is exhibited at the event came about in that period.
The Yabusame event costs 3000¥ and you can get the tickets early here by filling out a request and sending it via post. Oh how technologically advanced Japan. I'm sure if you call they will ask you to send the form via fax. Sigh...Or you can pick them up at one of two ticket locations listed on this site.
Anyway, I recommend sitting in front of one of the targets. Unfortunately, if you're not Japanese or Asian looking, they have special "foreigner" seats. Meaning, you can't choose to be in the middle for the main procession as the riders and guests are announced nor the side with the last two targets. The advantages of the 'foreigner' seats is they are at the launch area for the riders. It gives a good view of the riders initial run up and it is good for seeing the first target attempt. Otherwise, it's annoying. I don't know if I can get around the foreigner seating by pre-ordering but I'll try that this year.
UPDATE: I went to purchase my tickets at the Visitor's Center in Asakusa and told the staff I wanted a different camera angle because I was there last year and I got into the Japanese section!! It took a phone call to higher ups and several warnings that all information will be in Japanese, but I'M IN!
The event does get crowded, so get there early. Last year, they provided green tea and a gift bag.
If you're cheap though, like some of the locals (SUPPORT TRADITIONAL ARTS AND CULTURE!!...sigh), you can watch from the pathway pretty clearly. For more info on the Ogasawara clan and their events, they have a website and Instagram page. And last year, there was an Ogasawara gift shop next to an ice cream stand near the event.
I hope to see you all there.