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Kusajishi (Grass Deer Target Archery),
Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo 

The basic system of archery training was developed during the Heian period. Male offspring of samurai were given a bamboo grass horse and a bow to shoot at the grass deer target (kusajishi), the large target (omato), and the round target (marumono). When these archers became older they started to learn how to shoot arrows while riding a horse running at full speed (yabusame).

The Kusajishi team at Sensoji temple consists of five persons. First four archers shoot two arrows respectively and an archer gets one point if he successfully hits the white circle marked on the target deer. Then the team leader shoots two arrows and each hit gets two points. If an archer fails to perform his game in accordance with the stipulated procedures he will be disqualified from the game.

The bow was worshipped from the ancient times as the god of war and protector of families. The ceremonial use of the bow and arrow developed almost simultaneously with the military use. The ceremonial archery is used during various Buddhist and Shinto rituals, usually with a whistling arrow (kaburaya, hikime) to cleanse the area of spirits. The whistling arrow is a special arrow with a big wooden turnip attached to the point. Some small holes are drilled in the turnip to make a sound in the air.  

Plucking of the bowstring and the flight of screaming arrows welcome each of the Emperor's new-born children and dispel evil spirits or disease. A precious bow is awarded to the victorious sumo wrestler who performs a ceremonial dance with the bow. 


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