The Ritual of Kasagake Archery
Kasagake Shinji, also known as Kasagake Archery, is one of the traditional equestrian events in Kyoto that draws tourists from around the world. Held at the historic Kamigamo Shrine, this ancient ritual showcases Japan’s rich cultural heritage while offering a unique experience to spectators.
Kasagake Shinji consists of riders shooting at five different targets both on the ground and eye level. These targets are placed strategically to simulate military maneuvers on the battlefield, making it a more realistic equestrian event compared to other similar rituals such as Yabusame. The participants aim at three shoulder-height targets (Tōkasagake) and two closer to the ground (Kokasagake).
This exhilarating event usually occurs in October, beginning around 12:30 PM with archery starting from 1:00 PM. Commentary in English is provided by one of the priests, ensuring that visitors can easily understand and enjoy the ritual.
Sacred Animals and Shinto Rituals
Japan’s equestrian events such as Kasagake Shinji, Kurabeuma (traditional horse racing), and Yabusame (horseback archery) have deep roots in the country’s history. Some of these rituals date back to the Heian era and often feature horses as they are believed to be animal messengers for the gods.
People of Japan consider horses as sacred animals, which play a significant role in various Shinto rituals held across the nation. One popular belief associated with horses is that if someone sees a blue horse (having black and bluish colors) at the beginning of the year, they will enjoy longevity and be free from evil spirits throughout that year.
This belief has its origins in Chinese history and influenced contemporary Japanese rituals like “Aouma-Shinji” held at Sumiyoshi Taisha. As a means to modernize these rituals, wooden tablets called ema have replaced living horses in contemporary ceremonies. These tablets, inscribed with wishes and prayers, areoften found at Shinto shrines and depict the image of a horse.
Mounted Archery and Kamigamo Shrine
Kamigamo Shrine is an important location for Kasagake Shinji as it showcases one of the three original styles of archery performed to entertain shrine deities in Japan. The event mirrors the practice drills executed by archers during Japan’s warring period and is presently recreated as a religious offering.
Furthermore, participants of this ritual come from the renowned Takeda-ryū school of mounted archery, which has a fascinating history. Unlike the more popular yabusame ritual where archers shoot at only one fixed target, Kasagake Shinji requires them to aim at multiple targets placed at different heights.
Scores and hits are announced after each run, and riders with the highest score move on to the second round. The targets shrink in size as the competition progresses until a winner is crowned.
Experience Kyoto’s Rich Culture
For tourists looking to gain insights into Japan’s cultural heritage, witnessing the Kasagake Shinji event should not be missed. This captivating mounted archery competition offers a thrilling experience as riders race down the trail and shoot at various targets amidst breathtaking surroundings at Kamigamo Shrine.
So book your trip now and envelop yourself in an unforgettable experience as you marvel at the beauty of horses and skilled riders participating in Kasagake Shinji. It’s one of the most fascinating Kyoto events in October.
Another great event in Kyoto is Awata Taisai. Awata Taisai is an exciting and vibrant festival held annually on the second weekend of October at Awata Shrine in Kyoto. This grand event celebrates Kyoto’s rich history and culture through a series of beautiful rituals and parades.