Saturday, 20 September 2014

Horse Archery (Tues 16th - Kamakura)

Because yesterday had been a late start and we’d missed Sumo tickets we decided to get up early to head over to Kamakura, which is an hour south of Tokyo. This meant we got the trains at rush-hour which wasn’t as bad as people think (with the crowded trains and people being pushed on), but that was probably because we were moving out of the city rather than into it.

We were heading to Kamakura because Josh had found they were showing Yabusame, the Japanese archery on horseback. But this wasn’t starting until 1pm and we’d arrived at about 9am. Luckily there’s a surprisingly large amount of things to do in Kamakura, unfortunately this also meant more walking. So we walked over to the Daibutsu (large Buddha) they have, buying some traditional salt difuku (which was ok) on the way, and almost saw an 11 headed Kannon but decided for time to skip it. The Daibutsu was pretty cool but not as impressive as the one in Nara. You could pay an extra 20yen to go inside and it was like being in a warm iron bull because it was so hot outside.

Despite the hot weather we decided to go on an adventure over the mountain (hill by American standards) to get to the money washing shrine on the other side. It was a surprising tough climb which was mostly due to the hot weather. Also the mountain was covered in spiders which Wes made friends with. And we ran into a few suzumebachi (Japanese hornet) which scared the crap out of Stacey.

The temple on the other side was an interesting one, the idea was that you buy a basket to wash your yen in which blesses the money and doubles it in the future. As Wes and Josh were saying, it makes money, just for the people at the shrine rather than the money washers. We didn’t wash any money but I did take pictures and buy two omamori (charms) one for general and the other for money.

It was almost 1pm at that point so we headed out of the hills and back into town, which had increased in tourists, to the main shrine where the Yabusame was being held. We found one really, really good spot but this old Japanese man complained to the shrine people that the crowd we were part of was blocking his view and we weren’t in a designated area. The shrine people were forced to take us to another area where we could see but it was still a dick move from the old man. Jokes on him though, not everyone came with us and a lot of people just stepped over the barrier, hopefully squishing the little old grump.

Our new spot was still pretty good. We were in the shade and could see the third target. It took an hour after the event started to actually start because there was an introduction in both Japanese and English. But there weren’t any speakers where we were so we couldn’t hear anything. But once they started it was really, really good.

The riders were dressed in full traditional dress, they had to ride from one end of the dirt track to the other shooting at 3 targets along the way. Some rode faster than others but the faster ones often missed some of the targets. We could tell when they’d started because we could hear the clickclickclickclickclick of DSLRs going crazy. But after the first set there was a 10min break and about ¼ of the people left! Including a lot of the media people, which was weird. The whole thing was only an hour long and finished at 3pm and both mine and Wes’ cameras died just after, which was lucky.

On the way back we stopped off to try the local specialty, sweet potato croquettes which were bright purple on the inside but really, really hot and probably not the best idea on such a hot day.

We decided to head back into Tokyo for dinner and went to Akihabara again because Josh wanted to have more of a wander. We ended up having curry at a family restaurant and killed time (or “crushed time” in Japanese) looking around the shops.

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