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Friday, Oct. 24, 2008

Meiji Shrine archery event aims to excite

Staff writer

For Tokyo-based enthusiasts of traditional Japanese archery, Nov. 3 is a bull's-eye day on the calendar. At Meiji Shrine in Shibuya Ward on this day — the last of the four-day Meiji Shrine Autumn Festival — there is not only a national kyudo (Japanese archery) competition, but also a demonstration of the archery ritual momote-shiki and another of yabusame (horseback archery).

News photo
A traditional Japanese archer takes aim at a target. © COLIN SINCLAIR © JNTO

The kyudo competition, organized by the All Nippon Kyudo Federation, is an individual kinteki (zasha) event, meaning that competitors sit while they load their bows and then stand to shoot at round targets 36 cm in diameter from a distance of 28 meters. It begins at 9 a.m. at the kyudo field in the Shiseikan in the grounds of Meiji Shrine, and continues through the day. The prize-giving ceremony is scheduled for 6 p.m.

The momote-shiki, which is performed only twice a year at Meiji Shrine — in January for the Coming-of-Age Ceremony and in November for the autumn festival — is a ceremony dedicated to the Shinto gods of the heavens, the Amatsukami, and the gods of the land, Kunitsukami. It includes the shooting of a "whistling" arrow, which makes a sound that wards off evil spirits as it flies, and a finale in which 10 archers shoot 10 sets of arrows in succession. It will be held from 11 a.m. in the eastern gardens of the Treasure Museum within the grounds of Meiji Shrine.

The climax of the day is the demonstration of Japan's famed yabusame that begins from 1 p.m. at Nishisando — also within the grounds of Meiji Shrine. Organized by the Takeda School of Horseback Archery, the event sees several archers in traditional dress shooting at targets to their left as they gallop by on horseback.

Meiji Shrine Autumn Festival is from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 at Meiji Shrine in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. Access is from Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line or Meiji-Jingumae Station on the Chiyoda Line.

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