Being back on the west coast of North America again brings me that much closer to one of my favourite places in the world, Japan. I had the chance to take part in the 4th Annual Asia Oceania Kyudo Seminar recently. This trip fulfilled one of my dreams to have the opportunity to practice and shoot in a proper dojo in Japan. The photo above is at Meiji Jingu in Tokyo. This is the main center for kyudo in Japan if I understand correctly. It’s on the grounds of one of a very large temple in central Tokyo- just by Harijuku station.
I’ve been studying for a little over five years now. Still very much the beginner by kyudo standards. I think we are very lucky to have access to such wonderful teachers in the west but it’s still a very niche practice for sure. It’s a very introspective pursuit. There is of course the normal desire to hit the target but it goes much deeper into the area of meditation. Form, calmness, and beauty is paramount. Hitting the target follows naturally if all is in order. To go and see how it’s done in Japan is a real educational experience and quite a treat. Such wonderful teachers, other practitioners, and facilities really make it something special. I’ve culled through my collection of photos and cherry picked the ones I like best. Hope you will enjoy as well.
This is in the main kyudojo in Nagoya Japan. Wonderful to get a chance to see friends from all over the world converging here for several days of study and exams.
This is during our seminar. It’s a very hands on thing as you can see. Teachers come to each person while they shoot and make adjustments to your form while in the process of shooting. Sometimes one is in front of you and one behind, both pulling at you to adjust all the while you’re trying to shoot! It’s something that takes a bit of getting used to for sure. Luckily I was exposed to this from the very start (thanks Rick!) so it’s really not to uncomfortable now. Learning to relax and allow your body to be moved around by others is key.
This is down at the other end of the range. The angled wall is damp sand mixed with clay. It makes a very nice sound when the arrows land and the sound when you hit the target is like striking a drum. As you can see we’re just getting used to shooting here at this point and not hitting much yet. This will change thankfully.
Even though you’re tired at the end of the day it’s difficult to walk away and pack up your things. Last man standing here.
Many of the teachers are masters or “hanshi”. Many starting when they are very young practice all their lives. Some for many generations in their familiy. This is Honda sensei with Osawa sensei behind him. Both of these men are wonderful teachers and shoot beautifully. They were smiling and laughing much of the time while still being very focused and intent on helping us along.
We had a banquet the last evening of the seminar before our exams the next day. This is a photo of all the teachers and people who helped run the seminar for us.
Next day it was all business. These are the sensei who were our judges. I passed my exam by the way!
I got to do a little sight seeing in Nagoya as well. Here’s the castle there. Beautiful structure with a nice museum inside.
This is the view from inside at the top. Looking out over Nagoya.
I had just finished a difficult project at work. This is what it felt like…
A little side track in Kyoto. This was the view out of my room.
On my way to dinner in the evening I ran across this shop. Wish I could have gone back when they were open.
Just wandering. Love seeing little restaurants and spots like this. Such a lovely setting. I really need to go back and just spend a few days wandering the streets.
Heading back up to Tokyo. Mt. Fuji out the window.
Stopped off in Hakone on the way back up. This is the view out the window of the hotel room.
A wonderful stream just outside. The sound of water lulls you to sleep at night.
Making it back to Tokyo it’s time for more kyudo of course. I met up with my friends Harima-san and his wife Rumiko-san. They were so kind and generous to me. I got to visit several wonderful dojos and some amazing kyudo shops. Places I never would have found or been granted access to were opened to me. I can never thank them enough for showing me around and sharing all this with me.
Meiji-jingu kyudojo. I’ve seen this place so many times in documentaries and youtube vids. To be able to practice here was really amazing.
The shrine and the judges seats. Maybe someday I can come here for my exams.
The makiwara room. A few arrows to warm up before going downstairs. Monica from Sweden to the right of me!
Ran into Manfred from Germany while there too!
This is the kyudojo where Harima-san and Rumiko-san practice on an almost daily basis. I had trouble getting on the trains early in the morning with my bow and bag so I was late in arriving. Very sorry Harima-san!! He was patiently waiting for me and we hurried inside to change and prepare. It was a beautiful space. This is like a community center here in the west. Large central arena for all sorts of things. They just happen to have a very nice archery range as well.
Full 28 meters for 5 mato. Very nice space.
The route down the side for going to collect arrows.
Inagawa-san gave me a nice tour and took me upstairs to the roof to look around. They have solar panels above the range. This shot is looking down to range below.
This is their makiwara tucked away off to the side. I have never seen one that is not round. Interesting. Notice also the scales mounted on the wall to the left. For measuring the draw weight of the bows if I’m not mistaken.
There was a nice observation area off to the side. Good spot to watch from.
Everyone with the nice big smiles.
These guys were so good! Hitting, hitting, hitting. The sound of the arrows striking the target was constant. If you practice all the time as they do no doubt you will improve as well. Rumiko-san is preparing for the exam for godan soon if I understood correctly. Good luck to you!
They cycled through the shooting so quickly! As soon as I exited I came back around to grab more arrows to go right back in.
I forgot and left my lens cap tucked in my shirt in some of these. You can just make it out. Should photoshop it out, funny.
Harima-san on the left and Inagawa-san on the right.
After shooting we went for lunch. A small little place just a short distance away. Food was so tasty! They do this once a week I’m told. Nice social group. All chattering and laughing. Good food, good friends, it’s the same all over the world.
I feel so lucky to have been included in this. They were all so kind to me. I hope I can go back again and visit them someday.
This place looks like something out of a 1980s scifi movie doesn’t it? Amazing facility!
One of the downstairs shajos. Beautiful dark wood floors. Love the aesthetics.
The makiwara room. Notice the strategic placement of the mirror on the right. Very handy for checking form.
Those floors, really good feel to them. Notice the light spots from the wear of so many people standing to shoot.
The reason we came was upstairs. This is the enteki range, 60 meters distance. This was so much fun. Felt like the clout shoots with the English longbow over in Scotland. It was surprisingly easy to adjust. Target feels big! Perception-wise it’s scaled to appear the same size as the target at 28 meters. My first arrow to get the range was a bit off but then the second arrow was on target. I will have to try this at the western archery range here in Vancouver.
Back behind the line is a nice tatami floor with tables. Sliding doors open to let a breeze through.
I was shooting with my 18kg bow here. Didn’t have to adjust much for the range. Lighter arrows, stronger bow. Pretty flat trajectory. Just a little higher, maybe half a hand or so. I have some video of our shooting as well. Need to get that up on vimeo to share as well.
These are the arrows we were using. 6mm diameter shaft. Very light and delicate. They flew beautifully. Harima-san gave me 2 to bring back. They are rather expensive. I will try to replicate them I think.
The fletchings are very delicate and slim. About half the height of the fletchings on a normal arrow. They are taken from the under side of the feather. It’s thinner and more delicate than the top portion of the feather that’s normally used.
Walking out to collect arrows. You can see downstairs to the other shajo for the 28m distance.
Out at the targets.
This is looking back towards the shooting line.
Ok, still with me? Sorry for so many, I did pare it down. Saving some of the best stuff to the end. This is one of the largest kyudo shops in Tokyo. Koyama. I spent a little money here to be sure. Everything you could ever want they have. Sadly they don’t ship to the west. Have to go there in person next time your in Japan!
I learned a ton here. Asked so many questions and Harima-san was so patient in answering all of them. This is where I got the kimono in that facebook photo. Also managed some arrows and loads of other little things. My suitcase barely cleared weight at the airport home.
Look at those display cases above!
A little bit of art to the side. Notice the photo of Awa sensei.
A special treat for us here. We were allowed in the back to see the rear shop. He’s heating and shaping a bow here.
Look at all those bows. Just look at them. Look… at… them…
And lastly but certainly not least is the fish market. I made it to Tsukiji on the first morning after arriving. Kind of a ritual as the jetlag has you up early. Nice way to say hello to Japan early in the morning.
Well that’s it for now. Just looking at these photos I want to go back. Such a nice time. So good to come back some place that feels a bit different and yet very familiar. Seeing friends from all over heals the soul. Maybe next year I can make it to the seminar once again. Thanks for having a look. If you have questions on any of this stuff please let me know and I can provide more details.
Made a nice trip up to Brackendale yesterday with my friends Tim and Kate. It’s just up on the other side of Squamish about an hour up the 99 from Vanvcouver. There’s a nature reserve there where bald eagles congregate by the river. Plenty of salmon to support them through the winter. We’re just getting into the prime season for them here. This year there’s been less rain so the water levels are low we were told. More difficult for the salmon, easier for the eagles. Last year the count was in excess of 1,000 eagles. Back in ’94 it was a record year of almost 4,000! They’re beautiful birds with an incredibly strong presence. I highly recommend the trip if you have the time.
We drove up yesterday with the intent of just scouting the area. It was hovering right around freezing so I was grateful for the down coat I selected from the closet earlier in the morning. There’s a nice viewing area along the river just off the road. Volunteers are there to fill you in on information and offer viewing scopes to see across to where the eagles perch in the trees. I dropped a few dollars in their donation box to thank them for their trouble. It’s quite a good distance across to allow for safety and to keep from disturbing the birds. There was a peninsula upstream where we saw some people venturing out a bit closer. Following a well worn path and moving into the trees we went in search of a better view. We worked our way up for a few hours picking our way through the trees and along the river. This was the good stuff as we were able to see birds passing over our heads from time to time and stopping to perch on branches over the water. Their vision, much more acute than ours, was focused on the river for their next meal.
Here are just a few of the photos I took. Please click on them to see a larger version if you’d like. I was shooting with my longest lens. Heavy on my shoulders for the hiking but well worth the effort. I’m thankful for the high resolution sensor in my camera as I have enough resolution to crop in for these shots. Money well spent. I think we will return again for another day. No doubt we’ll be stopping by the camera shop to rent longer and even heavier lenses.
This shot is a view across to the opposite bank. If you look carefully you can pick out the two eagles in the image. Along the water the walking was a bit more slow. Stones varying in size from baseballs to bowling balls cover the ground mixed in with the river sand and drift wood. I’ll be wearing the heavier boots next time for more sure footing. You could tell that we were in the flood plane with all the drift wood around. Some of the smaller trees along the way had debris tucked high up in their bark and lower branches. Up above us there was snow on the peaks and the rich green of the forest. Working our way up farther we started to see some of the younger juvenile birds. Their feathers are mixed in color and lighter. They haven’t yet developed the distinctive white feathers covering their head. Tim and Kate spotted one that was on the ground feasting on a very large salmon. I worked my way over and we had plenty of time to take some photos as the youngster wasn’t to be moved from his meal. Above him and behind in the trees another was perched and watching. Perhaps the one on the ground was the older and stronger and the other was waiting for his turn at the scraps?
It was a very good day out. Well worth the drive up. Thanks to Kate for finding and keeping tabs on this for us. Days like this remind me to always keep the tourist/explorer mentality no matter where I am and where I go. It was getting dark as we came out of the woods and I was famished. A nice little restaurant on the riverside offered a good pulled pork sandwich and a pint. A coffee for the road to get us home safely was a very good idea as well. I was thoroughly tired by the time I made it home. A little snack and straight off to sleep.
Here are a few links for some more information: