Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Yabusame at Nikko – Samurai Horseback Archery

Yabusame is Japanese horseback archery, a tradition that goes back well over 1000 years. The first samurai referred to their profession as “The Way of the Horse and Bow” – the sword as a principle weapon coming much much later.

This Yabusame event took place in Nikko which is 2 hours north of Tokyo. It’s the resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867). The Ogasawara Ryu (school of archery) conducted the event. They do Yabusame there in May and October.

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September 14, 2012 Posted by | Archery, festival, japan, japanese archery, japanese culture, Japanese martial arts, samurai, travel, Yabusame | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joma Shinji – Kyudo (Japanese Archery) Exorcism Ritual for New Years

Joma Shinji is a New Year’s Japanese Archery Ritual for driving away evil for the coming year. Six archers dressed in formal samurai kimono known as kariginu shoot two arrows a piece at a large circular target. On the back of the target is painted an upside kanji character for “oni” which means “devil.” Striking the target is believe to expel evil particularly shots which pass through the oni character.

Since ancient times in Japan, arrows have been seen as having the power to banish and destroy evil. Even the twanging of bow strings is thought to ward away evil spirits. During New Year’s, decorative wooden arrows are sold at temples and shrines as good luck charms for the coming year.

Joma Shinji takes place at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura on January 5th. The ritual dates back to a time when Kamakura was the military capital of Japan (1185-1333). The first hereditary shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, promoted a variety of military type rituals usually involving archery such as Joma Shinji. In his day, the bow was the primary weapon of the samurai, their profession being known as “The Way of the Horse and Bow.”

Yoritomo was keen that his warriors not become soft even in times of peace. He was all too mindful of what had happened with his enemies, the Taira family. The Taira were once the dominate samurai clan of Japan but they became too intoxicated with the luxuries that power can bring and many of them preferred to excel in non-warrior pursuits such as music and poetry.

War broke out between the Taira and Minamoto and eventually the Taira were utterly defeated in 1185. It has often been pointed out that the Taira’s love of luxury and leisurely pursuits were a major factor in their downfall. Yoritomo did not want the same happening to his samurai so he decided to place his shogunate capital in Kamakura far away from the debilitating influence of the aristocratic culture of Kyoto and he encouraged the continual practice of the bow in annual rituals and contests.

Today the Ogasawara Ryu, a school of Japanese Archery, conducts the Joma Shinji Ritual. The Ogasawara school and clan was established in the Kamakura Era by Ogasawara Nagakiyo who became an archery instructor to Yoritomo. The Ogasawara Ryu does a number of archery events throughout the year including Yabusame, mounted archery.

For more photos check here: Joma Shinji Photos

January 22, 2012 Posted by | 2012, Archery, culture, history, japan, japanese archery, japanese culture, japanese history, Japanese martial arts, kyudo, New Years, Shinto, travel, youtube, zen | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Dezuiri 2012 – Yokozuna (Sumo Champion) New Year Ring-Entering Ceremony at Meiji Shrine

Every year on January 6th, to celebrate the coming year, the current sumo champion(s), Yokozuna, come to Meiji Shrine and perform a Dohyo-iri or ring-entering ceremony. For Yokozuna there are two styles – Unryu the more common is seen as a defensive stance and Shiranui is a more offensive stance. They are named after Yokozuna by those names – though there is debate that there was a mix up and that each wrestler actually performed the other’s style.

Anyway, Hakuho performs the less common Shiranui style dohyo-iri and wears a Shiranui style rope which has two loops in the bow. I read somewhere there is a superstition that Shiranui has brought bad luck to previous Yokozuna who performed that style. It remains to be seen if Hakuho will escape such a fate.

January 10, 2012 Posted by | 2012, japan, japanese culture, japanese history, Japanese martial arts, martial arts, meiji shrine, sumo, tokyo, video, yokozuna | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some New Years Activities at Yasukuni Shrine

Over the New Years holiday, I visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for some of their New Years activities that they had over 3 days. Martial arts, shamisen, dance, archery, sword-making, and head biting lion dogs Yasukuni had it going on.

January 6, 2010 Posted by | japan, japanese archery, japanese culture, Japanese martial arts, New Years, tokyo, travel, video, yasakuni shrine | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aikido Demo at a Tokyo Garden

During the New Years holiday, I was at Hamarikyu Garden in east Tokyo to look at Japanese falconry when I came across a brief demonstration of Aikido. Aikido is as many people know a Japanese martial arts which is about redirecting an attacker’s energy and neutralizing them without causing them physical injury.

Though it doesn’t look like it, it was freaking cold being January 3rd!

January 4, 2010 Posted by | aikido, japan, japanese culture, Japanese martial arts, karate, martial arts, Sport, tokyo, video | , , , , , | 2 Comments