If you want to try a different and exciting cultural experience in Japan then why not spend a day learning to shoot a bow from horseback just like a samurai? You can do this by taking a Yabusame lesson!
Yabusame is a traditional form of mounted archery where competitors shoot arrows at three wooden targets while riding on horseback. There is a place just a couple of hours north of Tokyo by train where you can learn it for yourself!
We booked the experience through the “govoyagin” website which organised everything, including a guide-interpreter as we weren’t Japanese speakers. The guide met us in Shinjuku and we took the train to Niihari where we were met at the station and driven to the stables. They gave us a quick tour and we met our horses for the day, as well as some of the miniature horses, dogs and even a wild boar!
The first part of our lesson was the archery practice. Using a Japanese style bow they showed us how to nock and shoot the arrows, which we had tucked into our waistbands. They were so helpful that they even lent us belts to help hold them more securely as the waistbands of our shorts were a bit loose to hold them.
Once we’d gotten the hang of shooting the bows it was time for our riding lesson. They provided all the safety gear including helmets and an airbag vest which clipped to the saddle and would inflate around you if you fell from the horse. (Though thankfully neither of us did!) A few practice runs and then we were handed our bows and rode again, no hands and shooting at the target as we went past. It was really exciting and although neither of us scored a hit we both came really close! They offer a 2-hour or 3-hour lesson although in summer when we had our lesson only the 2 hour one is available as it gets too hot for the horses. If we’d had the extra hour I’m sure we could have hit the target!
If you pay a bit extra then you can even dress in traditional costumes while you do practice to really get in the spirit of the thing!