I had no idea what exactly it was other the words "arrows" and "horse" came up a lot. Did they shoot from the horses? At the horses? Did the horses shoot the arrows? Last year I went to Tsuwano to see this event and got there too late (due to traffic), and missed it, and was forced to wait another year to find out.
This year we left good and early, bought the fixins for a yummy picnic and got on the road in time to find parking somewhere within the vicinity of the town.. We got there plenty early to find parking only a fifteen-minute walk away. We were not, however, going to beat the photographers who'd taken up almost every bit of viewing area with tripods and stepladders.
I wiggled my way in there anyway, and we all waited about forty minutes for it to begin. There was a lot of ceremony as happens with ANYTHING Japanese. (Note that these people invented the word "ceremony").
Eventually a lot of people came out dressed in outfits from 800 years before.
Fortunately they are based on designs of the time and not the actual outfits, as I'd hate to imagine how those deerskin chaps would have fared through the years..; There was a kimono-clad entourage of about ten people for every one horse and they paraded around a bit so the photographers could feel they hadn't wasted their time waiting.
Then they all disappeared and we heard some incomprehensible Japanese and a few Ooiyowooahoiiooooo as only the best Japanese yodeler can muster and BANG!
With no warning, a horse came galloping down the designated path with a rider on his back.. Now I would have been holding the reins, the hair, ears or any part of this speeding bullet to just stay on, but this rider was setting up his bow and arrow and… THWACK!; A board of pine, which was designated as target number one, was split in two.
As if this wasn't enough, he has to hit 3 of these targets consecutively at about 50 meters apart. That's not many steps on a galloping horse, so they have to set up the arrows pretty fast for the next target.
It was darned impressive to say the least, and the 20 plus degree weather and the pink cherry blossoms all around helped add to the effect. It's high on my list of must- sees. The only thing I can't believe is that I never knew about this sooner. In all my years here no one has ever told me about this until last year.
I strongly recommend that Lily and Joey try some archery. They'd LOVE to give this a whirl!