Yabusame is a traditional martial art that involves shooting a bow at a target from the top of a galloping horse. The audience is captivated by the splendid and heroic performance of the performers who have mastered both equestrian skills and traditional Japanese archery. This time, we will introduce three Yabusame in Kanagawa Prefecture that are worth paying attention to as Shinto rituals.
Yabusame ritual at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine that has continued since the Kamakura period
On September 16, 2023, at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, located in the center of the ancient capital of Kamakura, the Yabusame ritual, which is a regular feature of the autumn festival, was held for the first time in four years.
For samurai, the skill of shooting a bow while riding a horse running at full speed was essential. During the Kamakura period, Minamoto no Yoritomo recommended martial arts training through yabusame, and kisha (mounted shooting) was established as a samurai ceremony. Furthermore, in order to pray for peace and peace in the country, the samurai's spiritual strength and faith were made possible by allowing their retainers to demonstrate their archery skills in front of the shrine and in front of a large number of people at a major event held once a year. It is said to lift the spirits.
An essential part of the annual festival at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, which is held for three days from September 14th every year, is the Yabusame ritual on the final day. While the audience watches, the head priest and other members of the Ogasawara School of Archery and Equestrianism, which has inherited an 800-year tradition, make the dedication, wearing hunting costumes reminiscent of Kamakura samurai.
The length of the horse field is approximately 250 meters, and targets made of 55 cm square cedar boards are hung at three locations between green bamboos approximately 1.8 meters high. The force and breath of the horses as they gallop across the field, and the skill of the archers as they hit three targets with beautiful movements that follow the Ogasawara style of etiquette, which respects tradition, are must-sees.
[Tsuruoka Hachimangu Shrine Yabusame ritual]
・Date and time: Saturday, September 16, 2023, 13:00-16:00 *Ended
・Venue Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine (precincts) [2-1-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture]
Yabusame ritual at Samukawa Shrine, praying for peace and good harvest
A Yabusame ritual was also held at Samukawa Shrine, which is known as Sagami-kuni Ichinomiya, the only guardian deity in all of Japan. We would like to introduce the Yabusame ritual that was held on September 19, 2023, the day before the annual festival, to pray for peace and good harvest.
Samukawa Shrine is located between Ebina and Chigasaki near the Sagami River, a 5-minute walk from Miyayama Station on the JR Sagami Line.
Source: Samukawa Shrine - YouTube Channel [Samukawa Shrine] Samukawa Shrine from the sky 2020
Yabusame, which is performed as an offering to the gods or as a prayer, has a series of stages, including ``Shinto rituals, horse shooting, and Shinto rituals.'' First, the mind and body of those participating in the ritual are purified, followed by the horse field where the horseman performs the shooting.
This also has a long history, and there are records that it was practiced in the Kamakura period. It is said that it was passed down from generation to generation by a family called ``Batayu'' who presided over Yabusame rituals, but it is now dedicated by the Dainippon Archery Association, a public interest incorporated association of the Takeda school. Priests also serve as archers themselves.
It is not only magnificent and gorgeous, but also quiet. Shooting at the target is more important than hitting the target with the arrow fired by the archer.
[Samukawa Shrine Yabusame ritual]
・Date and time: Tuesday, September 19, 2023, 14:00~ *Ended
・Venue Samukawa Shrine (Baba on the west side of the main shrine) [3916 Miyayama, Samukawa-cho, Koza-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture]
It's not too late yet! Yabusame held in November
On November 3, 2023, Murou Shrine's Yabusame, a designated intangible folk cultural property of Kanagawa Prefecture, will be held at the annual festival of Murou Shrine in Yamakita Town.
Its origin is during Minamoto no Yoritomo's Ishibashiyama Raising of Armies, Yoshihide Kawamura, who had his territory confiscated and was about to be executed for siding with the Taira family, was spared the punishment due to his Yabusame skills performed in Kamakura. This is said to be the result of a story (``Shinhen Sagami Province Fudoki Kou'' and ``Azumakan'') that allowed the province to return to its former territory.
Yabusame at Muro Shrine is said to have continued for about 800 years. Why not experience the history at the venue?
[Muroo Shrine Yabusame]
・Date and time: November 3, 2023 (Friday/Holiday)
14:00 - Baba canter, 14:20 - Yabusame starting ceremony, 14:30 - Baba entry ceremony,
14:50 - Kori Tori Ceremony, 15:00 - Yabusame Opening Ceremony
・Venue Muro Shrine [1200 Yamakita, Yamakita-cho, Ashigarakami-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture]
Text/Mai Shimura (editor writer)