Yasumi is Japanese for holiday, or any day one has off school or work. Last Thursday was a yasumi for us. Culture Day is a national holiday here in Japan, and though I am still unclear as to how and why it was started (it was an emporor’s birthday … that’s all I know), the festivities that now surround the day are exciting to watch. I spent the day at Meiji Shrine, which is said to be the most important Shinto shrine in Tokyo (the shrine is the burial place of Emperor and Empress Meiji, hence the name). The activities of the day included martial arts demonstrations, men dressed as Samurai giving antique gun demonstrations, sake vendors, taiko drum players, and — my favorite — yabusame.
Yabusame is archery on horseback. An archer gallops down a stretch of … well … I don’t know how far, I’ve never been good at judging distance. So, the archer and horse gallop a ways, meanwhile shooting at two targets. After the three rounds of this, the finalists go on to the next round. The regular target is taken down and replaced with a small clay disk. The archer then aims at the disk. Whoever has the most hits at the end is the winner. This year, there was a senior high school student among the competitors. He didn’t win, but he made it to the final round. A champion yabusame player also took part. I think he was the winner again, but we left before the awards were given, so I am not sure.
The grounds of the shrine cover about 175 acres. It is a quiet, beautiful place to go walking. The grounds are open to anyone, so if the city gets to be too much, the shrine is a good place to escape the concrete.
I had a great time on Culture Day. One thing I’ll say about Japan, I now have favorite sports I like to watch, which never happened at home!