Yabusame on Zushi beach 逗子海岸流鏑馬 (horseback archery)

Updated for the 2019 edition, to be held November 17, 2019.

Here’s the thing about yabusame…it’s pretty freaking awesome.

In yabusame 流鏑馬 (やぶさめ), the objective is to hit a target with an arrow while riding on a fast-moving horse. The arrows have blunt, “turnip-headed” tips [hikime 蟇目/ ひきめ], which carry enough mass to splinter their intended targets. When I watched a tournament last year there were three types of targets: plain wooden squares that splinter easily; square, wooden bulls-eyes that retain a mark when hit; and small, circular clay targets that shatter only when struck in the center.

The yabusame tournament in Zushi 逗子市 is held on a pleasant beach, itself worth the 90-minute trip from Tokyo. In addition to being rooted in hundreds of years of tradition, the Zushi tournament highlights the ties binding Japan and America in the Miura Peninsula 三浦半島. The peninsula is dominated by the presence of Yokosuka Naval Base, which has been operated by the United States since 1945. After the war, U.S. military personnel learned yabusame from the locals, and in 1948 they held the first U.S.-Japan Friendship Yabusame Archery Competition*. When I attended in 2012, the event was kicked-off by a high-ranking official from Yokosuka. His speech was delivered in Japanese, a fine gesture, even if his Japanese was not.

* Other source, broken link: www navy mil/submit/display asp?story_id=49969

Directions and additional information:

The 2019 edition will take place on: November 17, 2019, probably starting at 1:00 p.m.

  • city zushi kanagawa jp/syokan/keizai/kankou/nenchu.html
  • The 2018 edition took place on November 18, 2018
  • The 2017 edition took place on November 19, 2017
  • The 2016 edition took place on November 20, 2016
  • The 2015 edition took place on November 22, 2015, starting at 1:00 p.m.
  • The 2014 edition took place on November 16, 2014, starting at 1:00 p.m.
  • The 2013 event took place on November 17, 2013 at 1 p.m., preceded by a samurai procession 武者行列 through the streets of Zushi. The following pages have good information about the event:
  • https://www.facebook.com/zushiyabusame/timeline
  • https://sites.google.com/site/yabunavi/home/list1/zushikaigan

The map below shows directions from Shinagawa Station to Shinzushi Station 新逗子駅.

From Shin-zushi Station it’s an easy walk to Zushi Beach, where the yabusame event is held. A fairly busy road separates the beach from the rest of the city; you can reach the beach via a small pedestrian underpass, which is here: Shinjuku, Zushi-shi, Kanagawa-ken 249-0007, Japan (Google maps)


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