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Kamigamo Shrine Hosts Musha Jinji, An Ancient Archery Ritual Celebrating New Year

Kamigamo Shrine Torii

Celebrating Musha Jinji at Kamigamo Shrine

Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto attracts a host of visitors around mid-January for an annual celebration known as Musha Jinji,. The ritual, which seemingly has its roots in the Heian court era, garners spectators from different locations who come to witness an archery event conducted to expel bad luck and ward off misfortune. Men and women passionately participate in this age-old ritual, donned in traditional old-style court attire known as kariginu.

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Symbolic Representation of the Ritual

In this symbolic fight against evil spirits characterised by oni (demons or ogres), participants fire arrows at 1.8 meter targets with the word ‘oni’ written at the back, using these proverbial agents of purification to ward off misfortune. This captivating event starts at 10:30 am, with participants congregating around the open grounds within the Kamigamo Shrine’s precincts.

Two priests herald the inauguration of the ceremony by releasing special whistling arrows towards the targets. Subsequently, other archers assemble and begin their volley of arrows towards these ogre-marked targets.

Elaborate Contest Celebrating Martial Arts and Tradition

This event, which is one of the most awaited Kyoto events in January, is not just about releasing arrows; it’s about embracing an ancient tradition that pays homage to Japan’s rich cultural history. The meticulous attention given to each aspect of this ceremony—from preparing to shoot arrow to even collecting fallen arrows—is reminiscent of the grace and systematic nature of Life during Kyoto’s Heian era.

It also underlines the respectful principles inherently present in Japanese martial arts. To those interested in kyūdō—the Japanese version of archery as a martial art—or anyone fascinated by history or costumes, Musha Jinji presented at Kamigamo Shrine promises an insightful peek into period rituals.

Participating Teams and Public Access

This resonant event is conducted by Ogasawara-Ryu—an ancient archery school with a prominent history that spans over 800 years. The occasion is public, drawing local Kyoto residents alongside visitors from different cities who come together to witness this Sisyphean battle against ill luck.

To reach Kamigamo Shrine from JR Kyoto Station, guests can take City Bus No.4 from boarding location A2 and alight at Kamigamo Jinja Mae; the commute takes approximately 52 minutes. Similarly, visitors wandering through Shijo Street area (Gion, Omiya) can catch City Bus No.46 to reach Kamigamo Jinja Mae conveniently.

As such, anyone with interest in observing this special mid-January ritual that blends traditional outfits with capturing archery displays while keeping alive an age-old military ritual from past times is invited to visit Kamigamo Shrine for their annual Musha Jinji event.

If you happen to be in Kyoto during the month of July, don’t miss out on the Yakuyoke Taisai Festival. The Yakuyoke Taisai Festival, with its centuries-old traditions, lively parades, mouth-watering street food, and contagious fun, offers an unforgettable experience of Japanese culture.

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