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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Individual Shrine Observances
Yabusame shinji
This rite takes place on September 16 at Tsurugaoka Hachimangū in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture. In the afternoon, horseback archery (yabusame) take place at the horse riding area inside the shrine precinct (keidaibaba). Three archers dressed in the hunting clothes from the Kamakura period receive the Shinto priest's (shinshoku) blessing and drink sacred sake (miki). When signaled by the magistrate (bugyō) they start running their horses. There are three targets numbered one to three. They each shoot an arrow from their horses. After three archers are finished, more than ten other yabusame are performed.
       On April 22 and 23, yabusame rites takes place at the branch (massha) Hachimangū of Watatsu Shrine, Hamochi Town, Sado County, Niigata Prefecture. Two young archers are selected from clan members (ujiko). They confine themselves for two nights and three days. Early in the morning of the twenty-second, a bamboo purification place (imidake) is set up on the seashore and a purification ceremony for archers and horses takes place. In the afternoon, the sacred horse (shinme) flanked by two other horses, line up in front of the shrine gate (torii). Then the rite is performed and there is a ceremony (yūmato shiki) where two archers shoot an arrow in the evening sky. On the morning of twenty-third, three horses line up in front of the torii and food and wine offerings to the kami (shinsen) are presented. Yabusame takes place at a temporary Hachimangū shrine and also in front of the torii. The first archer starts running his horse from in front of Hachimangū, and throws peach leaves he is holding in front of the first target. The second archer throws peach leaves in front of the second target, reaches the torii, turns around, and returns to Hachimangū. Next, they change their clothes and three times shoot arrows at the target from the running horses. When the ceremony is finished, they head for Watatsu Shrine. In front of the torii, the last arrow is shot into the sky. At the shrine, arrows (ya), fans (oogi), and amulets (shinsatsu) are distributed. These items are believed to drive off the kami of disease.
       Yabusame rites takes place on May 5 at Sengen Taisha of Fujisan Honmiya, Fujimi City, Shizuoka Prefecture. The day before this the shrine buildings are decorated with irises (shōbu) and mugwort (yomogi) and there is a ceremony. The distinctive feature of this ceremony is the presentation of steamed sticky-rice wrapped in leaves (chimaki), bamboo shoots (takenoko), sweet arrowroot (amakuzu), shōbu, and yomogi as food offerings to the kami (shinsen). Once this is completed, priests (shinshoku) and archers together go pay respect to other branch shrines (sessha and massha) such as Massha Wakamiya Hachimangū, Wakanomiya Sengen Shrine, Kanenomiya Shrine, and Fuchi Shrine. At that time, targets are set up in the shrine precincts (keidai) in front of the shrine and each archer performs yabusame with a single arrow. Then, they return to the horse riding ground at the main shrine and participate in the kannagake ceremony of test shooting. On the afternoon of the fifth, five horseback archers bring offerings and face questioning (toigyōji) to confirm their backgrounds. In yabusame, there are "okonai" and "hon'nori." Okonai perform various archery styles such as bow holding (dakiyumi) or kokiyumi in front of the mounted archers. Furthermore, the archer demonstrates the form to shoot heaven and a form to shoot the earth. He then stops his horse and demonstrates the form to shoot an arrow at the front and back, right and left, and at the target itself. At the third form, he shoots at the target. The hon'nori follows with each archer shooting an arrow from a running horse. This shinji is believed to have begun in 1193 by Minamoto no Yoritomo who was hunting at the base of Mt. Fuji.
       Yabusame takes place on April 15 at the first shrine (ichinomiya) of Nukisaki Shrine in Tomioka City, Gunma Prefecture. There are two mounted archers. The curtains are set up around the horse riding ground in front of the gate of the shrine precincts (keidai). Two targets are erected and archers shoot from running horses.
       At Mononobe Jinja in Ōta City, Shimane Prefecture, there is a Yabusame ceremony that takes place on October 9 as part of the seasonal festival (reisai). On the afternoon of the day before, the street in front of the shrine becomes a horse riding area and three targets are prepared. Sand is spread and horses have a test run. This is called "showing the horse riding ground" (babamise). The day of the event, in the afternoon, after the traditional ceremony (koden matsuri) and the shrine-maiden's dance (mikomai), the person in charge that year (nenban) and caretakers raise a flag (nobori) and parade on horseback wearing either warrior outifits or old ceremonial clothing (kamishimo). They parade from the shrine around the town and then return to the shrine. This is called the "renewal of donations" (kifumono aratame). Next three horses perform yabusame in the precincts of the shrine (keidai). In addition, there is a ceremony called shinme hikiwatashi where the sacred horse (shinme) is walked back and forth three times in the main garden in front of the shrine.
       See also Yabusame

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