Participant to the Ohmato TaikaiWe came back to Kyoto just on time to assist to the “Ohmato Taikai”, the 400 year old archery competition held at the Sanjūsangen-dō Temple in January.

A Ukiyo-e woodcut from the Edo period depicting the Tōshiya



This temple in Kyoto has always attracted Kyudo (Japanese archery) enthusiasts. The main hall building is the longest wooden building in Japan — it is 120 meters long.


The competition, called Tōshiya (通し矢 , lit. passing arrow)  started in 1606 when a Samurai gave a demonstration of his Kyudo prowess — shooting 100 arrows in rapid succession the entire length of the temple. He hit the target 51 times.

Since this, an annual Kyudo contest has been held at the Sanjūsangen-dō Temple with various archery marathons events:

The Hyakui
Most target hits with 100 arrows.

The Seni
Most target hits with 1000 arrows. In 1827, an 11 year old named Kokura Gishichi successfully hit the target 995 times firing from half the distance of the hall.

The Hiyakazu

Boys who had not yet celebrated their Genpuku, or coming-of-age ceremony, could compete in this event. Archers would shoot as many arrows as possible for a 12 hour period during the day. In 1774, Masaaki Noro, a 13 year old from Kishū, shot 11,715 arrows with almost all of them hitting the target. That’s an average of 16 arrows a minute for 12 hours with no break.

The Oyakazu
The number of target hits in 24 hours. In 1686, Wasa Daihachiro from Kishū successfully shot 8,133 out of 13,053 arrows averaging 544 arrows an hour, or 9 arrows a minute, and became the record holder.

Participant to the Ohmato Taikai
Participant to the Ohmato Taikai
Participant to the Ohmato Taikai

The Tōshiya competition ceased being held in 1861, after 255 years. Since then, a contest based on it, the Oh-mato Taikai, or Festival of the Great Target, still continues today, drawing roughly 2,000 participants from throughout Japan. The sight of all these 20 years old woman participants in colorful kimono with hakama is awesome!  Archers shoot arrows into targets approximately 50 – 100 centimeters in diameter and 60 meters away. The contestants are all 20 years old and there are also demonstrations by older, more experienced archers.

Participant to the Ohmato Taikai
Participant to the Ohmato Taikai

The archers shoot in groups of six. There are only 4 targets. Each archer has two arrows and two minutes. Archers that hit the target with both arrows go on to the next round.


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