<In-Depth Report>The Japan Equestrian Archery Association Selected for Japan Cultural Expo 2.0: Experience the Dynamic Power and Intensity of Yabusame at the “Yabusame Ritual” on June 2, 2024

<In-Depth Report>The Japan Equestrian Archery Association Selected for Japan Cultural Expo 2.0: Experience the Dynamic Power and Intensity of Yabusame at the “Yabusame Ritual” on June 2, 2024

What comes to mind when you hear the word “yabusame”? Picture archers dressed in traditional attire, shooting at targets from horseback at full gallop. A successful hit elicits loud applause and cheers from the audience, creating a highly charged atmosphere. Preserving this ancient practice of yabusame, handed down for eight centuries since the Kamakura period, is the Japan Equestrian Archery Association, based in Kamakura. Ahead of the yabusame ritual to be held on Sunday, June 2, this article explores the history and allure of yabusame.


A 15-Century-Old Japanese Tradition

In yabusame, archers dressed in ite shozoku (literally “archer’s garb”) shoot arrows from a speeding horse. They do this while galloping through a roughly 220-meter track, along which three targets are set up.

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For Peace, a Good Harvest, and Health

The origins of yabusame date back to the sixth century, when three arrows were shot to pray for peace and rich harvest at the present-day site of Usa Jingu shrine in Usa, Oita Prefecture, by order of Emperor Kinmei. In 1187, during the Kamakura period (1185–1333), Minamoto no Yoritomo, who founded a samurai government and became the first shogun, held yabusame at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine. The horseback archery that is performed in yabusame was an essential martial art for the samurai, and it came to be held at shrines across Japan as part of Shinto rituals and ceremonies.

Being a Shinto ritual, yabusame is held not just as a contest of martial skill but also to pray for such things as universal peace, a rich harvest, and people’s health. Why not wish for health for yourself and your loved ones or for peace in the world as you watch yabusame? 

A scene from kasagake, one of the major forms of Japanese horseback archery alongside yabusame, at the Kamigamo Jinja Kasagake Ritual.

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The Japan Equestrian Archery Association: Preserving Equestrian Archery and Promoting Traditional Culture

Based in Kamakura City, the Japan Equestrian Archery Association preserves the Japanese art of horseback archery handed down from the Kamakura period and practices traditional horsemanship. It has performed yabusame and kasagake across the country since its establishment in 1939, and today it regularly dedicates yabusame and kasagake as Shinto rituals at such shrines as Meiji Jingu, Kamigamo Jinja, Mishima Taisha, and Fuji Omuro Sengen Jinja.

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Breathtaking Power and Form

I viewed the yabusame held as part of the Kamakura Festival in April 2023. What overwhelmed me first and foremost was the speed of the horses, which can reach 50 kilometers per hour (30 miles per hour); I got an up-close feel for the dynamic energy of the horses hurtling through the track set up on the shrine grounds.

Mounted on the galloping horses, the archers take their hands off the reins to ready the bow and arrow and aim at the targets. Instead of gripping the horse between their legs, they firmly step into the stirrups with their full weight and straighten their back with their hips slightly afloat. In this difficult position, called tachisukashi, archers must prepare for the next target in as little as four seconds with the fastest horses. The moment when an archer strikes a target while maintaining a beautiful posture without the upper body moving up and down is a sight to behold.

The length of the horse track and spacing of the targets remain unchanged since the Kamakura period, according to the Japan Equestrian Archery Association. But today, it isn’t unusual to use Western-bred horses that are larger and faster than Japanese breeds. This makes it extremely difficult to hit a target, and it’s said that yabusame is more challenging today than ever. In addition to immersing yourself in the excitement of the action, paying attention to the archers’ technique and riding posture is a key point to enjoying live yabusame.

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Growing International Popularity

With a history spanning 1,500 years, yabusame is now extending its reach beyond Japan’s borders, being performed overseas. The Japan Equestrian Archery Association demonstrated yabusame at Meiji Jingu for US President Barack Obama during his state visit to Japan in 2014, and it has also held yabusame performances in various countries, including France, Germany, Brazil, and Mongolia. Most recently, the association performed yabusame in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018, garnering great acclaim.

Based on these achievements, the Japan Equestrian Archery Association was selected for three consecutive years to take part in the Japan Cultural Expo, which was organized by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Japan Arts Council from fiscal 2020 to fiscal 2022. The Japan Cultural Expo was designed to generate momentum for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and to showcase Japan’s traditional culture to domestic and international audiences. The “hosted and co-hosted” category, in which the association was selected, involved joint projects with the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Japan Arts Council.

Moreover, the association has again been selected for two consecutive years (fiscal 2023 and fiscal 2024) to participate in Japan Cultural Expo 2.0, the successor to the Japan Cultural Expo. Japan Cultural Expo 2.0 is being implemented for three years, through fiscal 2025, with the aim of improving customer satisfaction by enhancing the quality of cultural programs and accelerate efforts leading up to the World Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai.

In all, this marks the fifth consecutive year for the Japan Equestrian Archery Association to be selected for the Japan Cultural Expo. Below is an overview of the projects held over the past four years, accompanied by videos.

FY 2020: Yabusame for World Peace and Health

Conducted to wish for world peace and health through early containment of COVID-19 and for the safe holding of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were postponed by a year.

  • Livestream archive in 8K Ultra HD

FY 2021: Yabusame Ceremony to Wish for the Safe Holding of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Held for the safety and success of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

  • 6-minute digest (Japanese)

  • 6-minute digest (English)

FY 2022: Kamigamo Jinja Kasagake Ritual

Presented at Kamigamo Jinja shrine in Kyoto as a Shinto ritual involving kasagake, a more practical variation of horseback archery requiring even greater skill than yabusame.

  • 5-minute digest (Japanese)

  • 5-minute digest (English)

FY 2023: Yabusame Ritual at Kamakura Ground

Conducted to wish for universal peace, a rich harvest, and people’s health, as well as the promotion and development of cultural traditions passed on in Kamakura. The event was held twice, in July and December 2023, and the December iteration drew a particularly international crowd, with one in four visitors hailing from outside Japan. Learn about annual yabusame and kasagake events held by the Japan Equestrian Archery Association in the videos below.

  • 6-minute digest (Japanese)

  • 6-minute digest (English)

Selected for Japan Cultural Expo 2.0: Special Yabusame on June 2

A special yabusame event will be held at the Yabusame Kamakura Ground on June 2. It will be a rare opportunity to experience up close the dynamic power and excitement of yabusame. Additionally, workshops and other hands-on activities will be offered at the venue, allowing visitors to feel closer to the history and culture of Kamakura.


The event will take place at the Yabusame Kamakura Ground, established by the Japan Equestrian Archery Association in November 2020. Featuring a 220-meter horse track, it is the largest permanent facility dedicated to yabusame in Japan. Here, visitors can witness the intensity and vibrancy of yabusame at close range.

Address: 358-4 Hatchozura, Kajiwara, Kamakura-shi (7-minute walk from Shonan-Fukasawa Station on the Shonan Monorail)

Event Schedule

9:00 am       Cultural exhibits

In addition to yabusame, booths will be set up for Kamakura-bori lacquerware, Noh theater, Japanese saddlery and archery equipment, and more. Learn about the culture and traditions of Kamakura!

10:00 am Yabusame ritual

  After the yabusame viewing, there will be hands-on activities for participants. 


  ・Noh workshops (mini performance, tsuzumi[hand drum] experience, Noh mask experience)

   ・Kamakura-bori lacquerware workshop

   ・Interaction with horses (hand-led horse rides for children, horse feeding)

1:00 pm  Horseback archery demonstration wearing heavy armor

1:15 pm   Meet-and-greet with archers

How to View

Guests who donate 1,000 yen or more at the entrance will be offered seats.

* A standing area will also be available for free.

* Please note that there is a limit to the number of people allowed entry.

Next Event Scheduled for September 23

In addition to a special yabusame performance, the event is slated to include various programs showcasing the allure of Japan’s traditional culture in collaboration with monitor tours for foreigner visitors.

* Details will be posted as soon as they are finalized.


神奈川県鎌倉市梶原字八丁面358ー4 (358-4 hacchozura kajiwara aza Kamakura city Kanagawa pref.)

大日本弓馬会(dainihon kyubakai)「流鏑馬鎌倉教場(yabusame kamakura kyojo)」