January 3, 2013

0444 JAPAN - Yabusame


A mounted archer is a cavalryman armed with a bow, able to shoot while riding from horseback. This technique was developed by the natives of large grassland areas, for hunting, but also for war. Mounted archery was a defining characteristic of the Eurasian nomads during antiquity and the medieval period, but the practice also spread to Europe and to East Asia. It developed separately among the peoples of the South American pampas and the North American prairies.

Japanese mounted archery is called Kisha, and had three forms (Kisha-no-mitsumono): Yabusame, Kasagake, and Inuoumono. Inuoumono consisted in shooting at dogs and is no longer practiced. Kasagake has different sizes of targets each of which is set at different height, and the archer shoots both ways. In Yabusame (in the picture) the archer shoots three special "turnip-headed" arrows successively at three same-sized wooden targets on the left hand side of the course.

Yabusame has its origins at the beginning of the Kamakura period (1185–1333), when, alarmed at the lack of archery skills of his samurai, Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147–1199) organized it as a form of practice. A Yabusame archer gallops down a 218-meter-long track (two chō) at high speed, controlling the horse mainly with his knees, and when he approaches a target, he brings the bow up and draws the arrow past his ear before letting the arrow fly with a deep shout of In-Yo-In-Yo (darkness and light). The targets and their placement are designed to ritually replicate the optimum target for a lethal blow on an opponent wearing full traditional samurai armor (O-Yoroi) which left the space just beneath the helmet visor bare.

The archer wears a costume comprising straw headgear (aya-i-gasa), cloak (suikan), a bracer or arm guard (igote), gloves, fur chaps (mukabaki), shooting shoes (monoigutsu); he carries a long sword (tachi) and short sword (koshigatana), a quiver of arrows (ebira) on his back, and has a bound wisteria bow (shigedō).

There are two famous schools of Yabusame:
• the Ogasawara school (Ogasawararyu). The founder, Ogasawara Nagakiyo, was instructed by the shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo to start a school for archery. In the Ogasawara family, archery, horsemanship and manners are grouped together under the term Kyuho, which refers to "manners in times of peace and campaign strategy in times of war."
• the Takeda school (Takedaryu). It was begun by Minamoto Yoshiari in the 9th century, at the command of Emperor Uda. Even in our days Takedaryu follows a formal regulation book named Yabusame-shahou, compiled in 12th century. The Takeda style has been featured in classic samurai films such as Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954) and Kagemusha (1980). The famed actor Toshiro Mifune was a noted student of the Takeda school.

In fact Yabusame is considered rather a ritual than a sport because of its solemn style and religious aspects, being regarded as a petition to the gods for fortune in battle. Today yabusame is held generally near Shinto shrines. In May, the Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock festival) in Kyoto includes yabusame, other locations being Tsurugaoka Hachimangū in Kamakura, Samukawa, and Zushi.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series World Bank Annual Meeting 2012 IMF, issued on October 12, 2012, to commemorates the 2012 annual meeting of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held in Tokyo from October 12th to 14th. These ten stamps (with the same value, 80) depict the representative historic Japanese coins from Wado Kaichin to gold, silver, copper coins issued under the New Currency Act adopted in 1871:

• Wado Kaichin coins (silver, copper) / 708 AD - it's on the postcard
• Tenpo Tsuho (copper) / 1835, and Kan-ei Tsuho (copper) / 1636
• Imported Chinese copper coins / 12c.-15c.
• Moneychanger's balance / cca. 19c.
• Hirumokin Gold Slug, Sekishugin Silver Slug, Yuzurihakin Gold Plate / 16c.
• Yamada Hagaki, early paper money / 17c.-19c.
• Keicho Oban (gold) / 1601
• "Money Tree", coins just as taken out of the mold / cca. 1863
• Keicho Chogin (silver), Keicho Mameitagin (silver) / 1601
• 20 Yen (gold), 50 Sen (silver), 2 Sen (copper) / 1871

Yabusame - Wikipedia
Yabusame - Encyclopedia of Shinto
The Takeda School of Horseback Archery - The Japan Equestrian Archery Association
Ogasawararyu - ogasawara-ryu.com
Japan Commemorative Stamps - Japanese Stamps

sender: Akiko Watanabe (direct swap)
sent from Kitakyushu (Japan), on 20.12.2012
photo: Aflo

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