Yabusame (流鏑馬) is a type of Japanese archery performed while riding a horse – hence, it is also known as Horseback Archery. The biggest Yabusame event is held annually during Reitaisai Festival at the Tsurugaoka Hachiman shrine in Kamakura, Japan (see my earlier blog post about our visit to Kamakura earlier this year). This particular event, which lasts for about an hour only, is very popular with locals and tourists – it is well attended and you need to get there at least an hour before the start to be able to view the event.
Yabusame is characterized as a Shinto ritual rather than a sport because of its solemn style and religious aspects. The pictures below show the parade, with all the participants dressed in traditional Shinto and samurai attire – quite colorful. You can also see the square wooden targets being carried in the parade.
The horseback archer gallops down a 250 meter long track at high speed, controlling his horse with his knees. The archer shoots a special “turnip-headed” arrow at 3 wooden targets, ritually placed to replicate the optimum target for a lethal blow to an opponent wearing full traditional samurai armor (O-Yoroi) which left the space just beneath the helmet visor bare.
Below is a short video showing the fast action. Did you hear the archer yell In-Yo-In-Yo (darkness and light)?