Kyudo: The way of the bow

I have done many posts on the culture and history of Japan. I have spoken about the clothing, food, sports, entertainment, and even gardens. There is a post of Samurai that talks about how far back they go and the importance they held. Throughout all of this I never once did a post about the use of a bow in Japan. It just never crossed my mind to do one. I have read plenty about them in my research for other posts. I guess I didn’t pay attention to their importance until now.

Kyudo, the way of the bow, has been practiced longer than there have been samurai in Japan. Kyudo the Japanese art of archery has over five hundred thousand people practicing it. In Japan Kyudo is normally first learned in high school or college. The Japanese believe it takes maturity to learn this art and require the students of Kyudo to be at least fifteen years old.

The Japanese have special names for the bows used in Kyudo. They are known as Yumi. Today they can be made from carbon composite materials, but practitioners of Kyudo mostly prefer them made the old fashion way.  The Yumi is a long bow that has been made of bamboo, leather, and wood as far back as the third century BC. The arrows for the Yumi are called Ya.

You may not believe this, but ya come in genders. The male ya are called haya and the female ya are called otoya. Depending on their gender they spin a certain way due to the placement of the feathers. The haya spin in a clockwise motion when shot. The otoya spin counter clockwise when shot.


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