A whisk of a beautiful Japanese arrow, shot from a hand-carved bamboo bow, from the steady hands of a petite, lithe young girl dressed in a traditional kimono. She was none other than Hayuka-san, Kyoto’s number one female Kyudo archer.
It was a rare opportunity to catch her in action, and it wouldn’t have happened if we had not followed Okaasan Mang to the Budo (Japanese traditional martial arts) Centre, where she had her weekend Kyudo (traditional archery) practice with her senpai (senior), the highly skilled and talented, Hayuka-san.
The weather was chilly and on their practice grounds, these archers seriously trained while the BFF & I watched at the side in quiet respect. It was probably 4 degrees or lower and though I had my jacket, my hands were cold… how could these modern day warriors not be freezing?
I observed with keen interest, that when Hayuka-san walked in quietly, with her Kyudo bow and arrows, everyone stopped what they were doing to quietly sit and watch.
All standard Kyudo practitioners wear a uniform, but at a certain level, they don’t need to. And as you can see, this young Japanese woman is dressed in a kimono. Kyoto’s #1 archer silently ties back her kimono sleeves and prepares to start.
Needless to say, she hits the mark every single time. It was an honor to watch Hayuka in action and capture all these on Mang’s camera. I tried to do a ying-yang thing below, of Mang watching respectfully on the right… separated by lines.
It was a truly beautiful experience, as was the entire compound. A walk around the Kyoto Budo Centre made my heart sing… here are some random favorites taken on my camera.
The fresh wintry air was crisp and cold, but the skies were a gorgeous blue… unlike the gloomy grey of London in the winter.
So once again, this is “Okaasan” (mom) Mang (who likes to call me “aka-chan” which means “child”/”baby”) & the superbly skilled but extremely humble Hayuka-san…
A great picture of Mang that the BFF so deftly captured, during training with the other Kyudo practitioners. It was COLD and these folks were wearing so little layers! It was fascinating to watch 🙂
This is my favorite picture I took of Hayumi-san in action on my camera…
Her grace and poise with the weapon is truly commendable. It’s perfectionists like her who make Kyudo such a beautiful art to appreciate. I can completely understand why she is Mang’s hero 🙂
And with her permission again, I took a few of her doing practise indoors, using the mirrors.
These mirrors remind me of magic… haha… I’m such a geek, sorry! But seriously, I could personally identify with how Hayuka-san is so intently serious when she’s doing what she’s doing, and then completely her easy-going self later when she’s not in Kyudo mode 🙂
It’s beautiful watching passionate professionals when they work!
The tall bamboo bows are over 2 meters high and handcrafted by artisans. Mang’s 88 year old sensei (master) bestowed upon Mang her very own bow, and my friend let me hold it. It was beautifully crafted and the bamboo bow had a good weight to it, what an honor.
The arrows used for Kyudo were also beautiful, very different from those I’ve seen in parts of South East Asia 🙂 They were long and slender, definitely more modern looking than the traditional bows… but still beautiful, deadly, little things.
After Okaasan Mang changed out, we left the Budo Centre and ate at a slurping good ramen shop nearby. We enjoyed a bowl of hot noodles in flavorful soup, that had slices of pork in it – charsiew ramen!
Aahahahaa… The BFF’s digicam had some kinda weird anorexic mode that made us all look skinny! What a cheat 😛 But it was a great day for walking and after a few hours of checking out places, we were feeling peckish again. Mang suggested a place we all jumped at immediately – a chocolate organic tea house! *grin*
It was a quaint but cosy setup, run and managed by a Japanese dessert chef and his Canadian wife. They look like a lovely couple (she definitely looks good in a kimono!) and they had a really cute cat called Meow Meow & a dog called Jodski!
As you can see, it’s a really beautiful little cosy place… customers could sit outside if they wished, but it was just too cold out!
The chocolate treats (dark, milk and green tea) were simply heavenly – if you’re a fellow chocoholic or dessert foodie, you MUST come to this place 🙂 Where we were sitting, Meow Meow suddenly padded over from the radiator and cuddled near us. Cute!
Heading back to freshen up, we had a glimpse of the temple near our apartment, on the way back home… Yasaka Jinja is where the Gion Matsuri starts from, in summer 🙂
Dinner was at a sukiyaki restaurant popularly frequented by the locals, situated along a stretch of eateries along the river, which was just a short walk from our Gion apartment.
Oiishi!!! We were all well fed and happily contented girls… in fact, we were the very last customers to leave the joint at the end of the night *grin* On the walk back to our apartment, we saw three real Geishas clad in full make-up and pretty kimonos, hurrying to their appointments 🙂
It was a fantastic day out, as the weather behaved and I got to experience more things than just the typical touristy stuff… I’ll blog about my experience at Takayama next, as we took a 4 hour train ride next, to this glorious place – which is amazingly beautiful, and a place that I’d certainly wish to go back to.
We’ve got four big illusion shows happening this week (goodbye weekend!), so things are getting pretty busy. But till I find time to blog again, I’d like to leave you with my all-time favorite Japanese art work… Katsushika Hokusai’s most famous print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which is in fact, the first in the series 36 Views of Mount Fuji. It was made between 1829 – 1832, during the Edo period.
May you contemplate, enjoy, and be inspired! 🙂