Reitaisai Festival

ReitaisaiYabusame, a Shinto ritual of shooting arrows on horseback, is famous worldwide .

Dates:September 14th-16th
Place:Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine
City:2-1-31, Yukinoshita, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture

This is the Reitaisai of the 800-year old Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine. It consists of numerous events such as offerings of Kamakura kagura music performed when paying homage to deities, a tea-offering ceremony to the gods and classical Japanese dance. Yet the greatest attraction of all is, no doubt, the gallant Yabusame (held on the 16th) which passes down the ancient traditions of the Kamakura Period.

Yabusame is a contest combining equestrian skills and Japanese-style archery which was popular among the samurai warriors from the end of the Heian Period (794  - 1192) to the Kamakura Period (1192  - 1333). Along a straight riding ground which extends over approximately 250 meters, targets 1, 2 and 3 are set up, and archers on horseback shoot at these one after the other. If an archer scores a direct hit, he receives a round of applause from the tens of thousands of spectators. The archers are dressed in samurai hunting wear called age shozoku just like in the Kamakura Period, and use turnip-head arrows which make a whistling sound as they fly through the air.

The festival is conducted over three days from September 14th to 16th. The 14th is the Yoimiyasai, or the eve of the festival. On the 15th, there is the Big Annual Festival when numerous worshippers are welcomed by the shrine head and staff, unmarried women serving gods and young girls serving gods as well as performing dances to the accompaniment of music. The Shinkosai parade of parishioner carrying portable shrines is also held followed by a procession of several hundred meters marching through the streets.