Autumn Festivals and Traditional Martial Art Yabusame

In Japan, there are many festivals in the autumn season. Autumn is a time of harvest and gratitude, so there are many festivals that celebrate the bountiful harvest.

While the festivals I have introduced so far have been large and well-known, this time I would like to introduce the “Takeo Onsen Autumn Festival” from Saga Prefecture, which has a history of over 830 years. Please understand that it may not be as famous or large in scale, but it is still a significant cultural event.

Held in Takeo City, Saga Prefecture, during the autumn when rice fields are ready for harvest, the “Takeo Onsen Autumn Festival” features local community activities such as children’s mikoshi (portable shrine) parades and bazaars. However, the highlight of this festival is the ancient martial art of Yabusame, which has been designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Takeo City, boasting a history of over 830 years.

Yabusame, as depicted in the photo, is a martial art where archers shoot arrows at targets from galloping horses. It is said to have originated in 1186 when Minamoto no Yoritomo, who was praying for victory over the Taira clan, sent envoys to Takeo Shrine, and the lord of Takeo dedicated this art as an offering.

In the past, Yabusame was actively practiced as a samurai discipline. It began as a practical martial art and evolved into a ritual and sacred ceremony.

Imagine galloping at speeds of over 30 miles per hour, riding a horse down the approach to Takeo Shrine, and swiftly releasing arrows at three targets—a moment of breathtaking skill that combines the rider and horse as one.

If you’re interested in experiencing Yabusame, there are places that offer comprehensive training, including orientation, archery practice, wooden horse practice, and riding on horseback. Please inquire for more information.

Experience the satisfaction of achieving both mental and physical harmony through the wonderful equestrian art of Yabusame.