Sunday, November 26, 2017

Horseback martial arts in Omi-Hachiman

近江八幡 加茂神社 馬上武芸供覧   足伏走馬

The Kamo shrine in Omi-Hachiman (Shiga prefecture, east of Kyoto). Other Kamo shrines include the Akami-Gamo and Shimo-Gamo shrines in Kyoto. A common point of the Kamo shrines is that they all host special equestrian ceremonies at different times in the year. The shrines in Kyoto are both well know and heavily attended for their horseback archery events and there is also a racing ritual held at one of the Kyoto shrines.
The Omi-Hachiman Kamo shrine is relatively remote (several kilometers from the train station in an agricultural area).
The shrine was part of an area that was known for being the breeding grounds for the emperors cavalry horses since the days of Emperor Tenchi, 1300 years ago.
 The shrine continues to be heavily influenced by its equine his as it has a large sacred horse (神馬, shinme) statue, a horse mascot (wearing a Kofun-era costume) and a shrine office that sells a number of horse related charms. The shrine has a long straight path that is used for two major horse related events; the horse racing ritual in the spring, and the demonstration of various equine skills (November).

The photos below are from a recent demonstration of these various equine skills. The day of the event features horseback archery, use of a yari spear and naginata halberd from horseback, the flying of a banner, an orderly parade, a mass stampede and a unique horse racing ritual called the “Ashifuse-no-some.”

There are only two places where you can see a demonstration of this ashifuse no soume. The ashifuse no soume (literally "hoof stamps streaking by" 足伏走馬). This is a ritual in which two areas compete for the favor of a shrine deity; in this case the competitors usually represent Kansai and Kanto (the Tokyo area).

Saiten-keiba (祭典競馬, literally "celebration day horse race") is a series of horse races in which two horses take off down the straightaway as the riders brandish their whips against each other, shouting and clashing the bamboo riding crops against each other.
The at the end of each pairing the competitors now to the shrine and return to the staging area. The tournament winner receives a shrine banner onto which the winner’s name will be written along with past winners.
Before the races start, shrine visitors can purchase betting slips to choice their favorite horses (after they watch a one by one series of practice runs down the course). Winners will receive a gift bag from the shrine.

This festival also coincides with the shrines 7-5-3 festival when children who turned seven, five or theee that year get dressed up; those were considered important milestones back in the times when childhood mortality rates were high.

Preparing for a demonstration of pole-arms.
A demonstration of slashes with a glaive.
Yari, a long straight spear.
The yari being positioned.
Note that the horse is traveling forward while the rider uses both hands to wield the yari.
Changing grips and aiming the yari on either side of the horse.
Holding the reigns with one hand a naginata (halberd) with the other.
Using the naginata (halberds) while moving parallel to an opponent.
Using the naginata (halberds) while circling each other.
Note the way that the man is using his forearm and hips to gain leverage.
I like the expression on this woman's face as well as the angle which shows the curve of the naginata blade.
A snapshot from the moment after the shaft of the naginata breaks and comes falling toward the ground.
Admiring her handiwork.
Deerskin chaps.
Note the interesting phone case (Mickey Mouse with a swastika face).
The mascot of the Omi-Hachiman Kamo Shrine.
Fall foliage
Damage after Typhoon 21 struck the area at the end of October 2017.
Light, shadows, fall foliage and evergreens.
Dressed up for the 7-5-3 festival.
Family photo-op.
Fall foliage and the sacred horse statue which bears a Kamo shrine insignia.
7-5-3 festival.
The three monkeys; Seeing monkey (left), hearing money (top) and talking monkey (out of frame).
A "kuroki" style torii; the simplest and oldest style of the Japanese sacred gate. 
A race official signals with a gold-colored fan.
Getting ready for a ceremonial procession.
A drum that is banged during the procession.
Note the equipment in the background resting against a stone fence; bows, arrows, spears, horse tack.
A rider races down the course shouting and waving a Kamo shrine banner, like messengers of the past.
Riders posing with the sticks/whips used in the ashifuse no some.
A nice pose for the group photo.
There are always seven horses for this event.
Motion tracking shot; the rider is in focus but the background gets blurred out.

Note the sled-shaped Japanese stirrups.
The lead riders continue to shout and point their sticks as the gap widens.
A mix of male and female riders preserve this tradition.
They seem to be hitting the sticks against each other rather than trying to hit each other.
It is unclear how violent things got when this ceremony began about 1000 years ago.
Motion tracking and tilting the camera focuses on the rider.
These horses are relatively small compared to other breeds.
A nice action pose.
The shinme, horse statue, against the fall foliage.
Note the shide, sacred papers, that form a perimeter around the statue.
All of the horses gallop forward together as riders wave their sticks in the air.