Centuries-old art of Samurai archery enjoys revival
October 12, 1996
Web posted at: 12:00 a.m. EDT (0400 GMT)
From Correspondent May Lee
TOKYO (CNN) -- The ritual begins with prayer, followed by the
Shinto rite of purification in preparation for the
traditional sport of yabusame or horseback archery.
It is said the sport began in the 6th century. During the
800s to the 1300s, known as Japan's Kamakura period,
horseback archery became the most important art form of the
samurai warriors, the country's ancient military aristocracy.
The sport requires a high degree of skill in archery and
horsemanship. The archers must shoot at two small, square
targets while in full gallop, within 20 seconds.
"The hardest part is putting the arrow in the bow," said
archer Mayumi Suzuki. "We start galloping after setting the
first arrow, but then in order to shoot the second target, we
have to set another arrow. That's very difficult."
Originally, the demands for pinpoint accuracy were extremely
high and the punishment for archers who missed was severe:
They were obligated to commit suicide.
(13 sec./587K QuickTime movie)
The needless loss of skilled warriors forced a change in
standards by the 13th century. Among other changes, targets
were enlarged. But by the mid-14th century, interest in
yabusame began to shrink for there was a new, more potent
weapon: the gun.
"Then everybody [was] not interested to shoot on [a] horse.
That's why [within] almost a couple of hundred years they
forgot everything," tournament organizer Harukazu Chotki
Yabusame experienced a revival in the 18th century, and the
modern-day warriors hope it will last well into the 21st
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