The Cynical Traveller goes to… Yabusame
Yabusame is the Japanese art of horseback archery. Myself and my friend from the Tokyo Times, decided to make a little excursion to the small village of Moroyama to see what all the fuss is about.
Despite Moroyama having a population of roughly 7, hundreds of people turned up to the festival, simply for the exciting prospect of actually seeing a live animal. To give you some kind of idea of the scarcity of animals in Japan, I’m going to completely plagiarise a story from a friend of mine.
This man, let’s call him Mr X, is married to a lovely young Japanese lady (whom I hope never reads this). Mr and Mrs X went back to Mr X’s home country of England.
When they saw some cows in a paddock, Mrs X was rather fascinated. Mr X asked her, “Haven’t you ever seen a cow before?” To which Mrs X replied, to the amusement of all, “Yes, in a zoo.”
Animals really are that scarce around here. So, it’s not surprising that people are willing to travel three hours to look at a horse. At least, one that’s not on a plate in a restaurant.
Moroyama lies on the charming, but rather inconvenient, Hachiko train line. Being a predominantly rural line, Hachiko trains leave once an hour in the mornings, have only two carriages and are apparently pulled by a team of oxen.
Still, we managed to leave on time and catch all our connections, only to arrive in town and be informed that lunch had just started and the yabusame would resume in 3 hours.
However, that gave us time to grab some lunch. We passed the usual stalls selling fried noodles, goldfish, and what my friend insisted were chocolate coated sausages. There were also a couple of stalls selling toy guns.
Let me tell you, we’re not talking about little plastic guns here, with blinking lights and semi realistic rattling sounds. Rather, it’s life sized sniper rifles, capable of shooting plastic balls up to a distance of 130 feet and punching through walls (albeit Japanese paper walls). Generally, they looked more imposing than the weapons carried by the Japanese GSDF into Iraq.
It’s an extremely dangerous and irresponsible toy in the hands of either an adult or a kid. Naturally, I was dying to buy one.
Being so early, we were able to get prime seats, right up the front.
This was my second yabusame festival and it turned out to be rather a disappointment. The previous festival was two years ago. That year, there were only two horses and one of them panicked, threw its rider and galloped off down the main street of the town.
Obviously I was hoping for a rather better show this year. Well, it must have been a bumper year for Moroyama, because this year they were able to afford three horses. There were also three riders; one was very good, one could ride but not shoot, and one who should probably just stick to baseball.
Three riders should have meant that there was enough action to keep us entertained. However, rather than send them down one at a time, they simply all thundered down in a row; the worst rider often cannoning into the back of the first two. Then you had to wait 15 minutes for the next bout.
Not that we got to see much of the event anyway, because for ninety percent of the competition our view was obscured by people leaning over to take photos. So much for those good seats!
The Cynical Traveller
This entry was posted on Monday, November 14th, 2005 at 7:01 am and is filed under Events, Outside Tokyo, Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.