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Wednesday, November 22

On a Cold and Dreary Day, Yabusame Promises to Warm Your Heart

Sunday was cold. And wet. The pouring down kind of wet. What better thing could there be to do on a day like that than to head to the beach! Zushi City had advertised a costume parade and Yabusame event that peaked Kimono Hubby’s interest. Starting at the Kamegaoka Shrine in Zushi, men, women and children dressed in period samurai clothes and parade through the streets to the beach, culminating in the Yabusame. I keep saying that word and you are probably wondering what I am talking about. So let me explain.

Yabusame is a traditional martial art form which basically is a mounted archery. A man on a horse at full gallop will charge down the beach and draw and shoot three consecutive arrows at three consecutive targets. The first time they do this, the object is just to hit the target in the center. The second time was so that they could split a block of wood. The third… I don’t know. My fingers had honestly entered stage one of frostbite from the icy rain and brawny winds and we just couldn’t hold out any longer.

The announcement we had read had given a rain date and we honestly drove down to the beach expecting to find it empty. We had purposefully skipped the starting point of the parade because surely there wouldn’t even BE a parade in this rain. The Japanese however are tougher than I. We found them huddled under a few tents on the beach serving warm miso and more wieners on sticks and lining the roped edges where the event would happen. The horses were walked in great circles to keep them warm and ready for their bolt. The men in their flimsy costume… well, I felt for them but they seemed unflinching to the elements that barraged them. The most amazing scene of all for the day had absolutely nothing to do with the event. There in the background, gliding over the small ocean waves, were about thirty windsurfers. I completely understand that wetsuits offer quite a bit of warmth and protection. But there is no way on this sweet earth that those men’s hands were not frozen to their poles. Japanese windsurfers are hardcore!

The rain did unfortunately delay the event unawares to us. We stood in the crowd giving glaring looks to the handful of people who stood next to the targets. When three men stood to give speeches, Kimono Hubby and I were not the only people to completely ignore what they were saying (like we would have understood anyway) and grumble under our breaths for them to just get it started already. One Japanese man kept tapping KH in the shoulder, laughing and telling him “look! No listen!” which I couldn’t help to smile when KH responded and the man laughed one of those laughs that said “I have no idea what you just said.” We get those laughs a lot.

When the time had come for the start, it first took a long, slow walk up and down the beach of the small samurai parade. If only they could have read minds and heard the crowd urging them to hasten the pace.

Of course, there was no warning when the start did happen. Perhaps someone had announced something in Japanese on the loud speaker but we had long since tuned that noise out. And of course the horses are going at a speed where just grabbing a camera and snapping a shot is absolutely not possible. I did my best none-the-less and only came up with a few shots like this. Needless to say, I am definitely no action photographer. No worries about the three small boys that sit next to the target. From what I hear, these archers do not miss which is absolutely amazing given the speed of the event.

There were extended intervals between horses. With only three horses running, they would leisurely all line up and walk back down the beach to the starting point. This would be where we drew the line with waiting and made a mad dash to the car.

I heard whispers from another English speaking group (turns out they were Tasmanian) there that these events happen in the spring and fall at beaches around the Zushi area. We will just wait to catch one when the weather returns to above 13 degrees.

No – I still have no idea what that translates to – other than cold.

1 comment:

Mike S said...

Loved to go to those events. Not sure the actual translation, but you can write it as アーチェリー although I doubt that helps. Some words like places or events have obscure meanings that no longer make sense. Much better to watch in warmer weather.