Kyoto - Yabusame Shinji  at the Shimogamo Jinja ShrineOnce a year on the 3rd of May, the Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto hosts a display of Yabusame – or Japanese mounted archery. We preferred to attend the rehearsal that took place the day before.  Sure, we didn’t get to see these archers shot at all three targets at full speed, but what we saw was very impressive, and it was in much easier condition as the place was not crowded at all.

Kyoto - Yabusame Shinji Demonstration at Shimogamo Jinja
Kyoto - Yabusame Shinji Demonstration at Shimogamo Jinja

Yabusame is the traditional Japanese art of mounted archery.  An archer on a running horse shoots three special “turnip-headed”arrows successively at three wooden targets.


This style of archery has its origins at the beginning of the Kamakura period (12th Century). Minamoto no Yoritomo established it to improve the archery skills of his samurai. He organized Yabusame as a form of practice.

Nowadays, the best places to see Yabusame performed are at the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū in Kamakura and Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto (during the Aoi Matsuri in early May).

Yabusame Shinji is actually a Shinto ritual of horseback archery. In Kyoto, this event is associated with the Aoi Matsuri Festival held on May 15.

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