Filming for Culture Japan at Yashio High School to cover their Kyudo (Japanese archery) after school activities.
One of the things I admire about Japanese students is the way they spend time after school hours. Many of them practice the Bukatsu [部活] (after school activities) and then some of them head off to Juku [塾] (cram school) and/or go to Arubaito [アルバイト] (part time job) after.
When I was a student back in the UK I had various part time jobs (mainly restaurant work) and thoroughly recommend all students to gain life experience through work outside of studies. One may think they are too busy with studies to have a part time job but that's the point - learning how to tackle a busy schedule while trying to make some moolah at the same time. Its best to get this experience while young rather than later on in life.
Studying while trying to make money on the side will teach you how difficult it can me to make a living when you leave school - its not easy! But with your learnings, you will already be a step ahead of your peers and armed with the experience, you should easily be able to deal with the ups n downs of making a living in society.
Relying on somebody for steady income maybe the easy way out now but it will be tough in the future. The only person you should rely on for money is yourself.
But as for after school activities - we didn't have them back in the UK and most students just went home to watch TV or go to the arcades to play games like Sidearms - but for me it was more like "watch other people play Sidearms" as the bullies would always take any money I had.
Kyudo [弓道] is the Japanese art of archery and is literally translated as "the way of the bow." Kyudo is one of the oldest forms of traditional Japanese martial art and is about spirit, purity and concentration.
Yashio High has a fair share of boys n girls who take Kyudo activity. For the first few months, they practice the strides used to enter the Kyudo hall (dojo) and also use this item you see here to practice the poses needed to shoot the arrow and also strengthen their muscles.
For this reason, many Kyudo students drop out of the activity as they don't get to shoot any arrows until they complete what may seem like mundane training.
After the many months of training however, students then get to shoot arrows. Here they line up at the back of the small dojo and take turns to shoot the targets.
In the dojo there are two sensei and senior students helping the other students.
The expression and actions of the students change when its their turn to shoot. They stride and position themselves on the shooting spot while continuing to look at their target. Their movements are slow and graceful. They usually carry two arrows as you can see this lady doing.
The ladies wear a black Muneate [胸当て] which protects their oppai from being struck by the bowstring.
Then its my turn ^^; Sensei helps me get geared up into my Kyudo-gi [弓道着].
The black bottoms are called Hakama [袴]. I love the design especially the V-openings on the side.
And now its time for footwear. Shoes are not allowed in the dojo and instead "Tabi" [足袋] is worn. It feels like a hard cloth shoe. Ninja footwear is also Tabi but the soles are made of rubber.
The name of the school and student is embroidered into the sleeve and hakama. This form of embroidery is called Shishu [刺繍]. Today my name is Yamashita [山下] ^^;
Folks who are interested in picking up their own Kyudo gear can get along to Hasegawa Kyuguten [長谷川弓具店]. Nearest station is Shirokane Takanawa [白金高輪]
Address and phone number below.
Next up is the glove - without it there would be a lot of severed fingers all over the place.
The glove is called Kake [かけ] and is made of leather. I was given a brand new one which was really stiff.
Sensei gives me a crash course in how to hold the arrow.
Kake is the word for the glove but Mitsugake is used to describe a 3 fingered archery glove. Yotsugake would be a four fingered archery glove.
Tsuru [弦] are bowstrings and these are spare ones wrapped up in a Tsurumaki [弦巻き].
Kake are stored on these shelves. You can see which ones belong to the ladies as you can see the Muneate - the black breast plate.
I really like the design of the muneate but only the ladies wear them - would be very odd for a bloke to use one ^^;
A large percentage of students injure themselves when they shoot off their first arrow - either the arrow clips their cheek or the bow string slaps their face or arm. The medical boxes here are used when such injuries happen.
Right, I'm all geared up and ready to receive some training. My sensei for the day is the lovely Mayumi-san who you can see here.
First up, Mayumi-san shows us how its done. She peacefully takes 3 strides over to the shooting spot and positions herself in place. All her movements are graceful and even though there is chit chat going on in the background, you can feel a aura of silence and serenity surrounding her.
Now we've seen how its done, its my turn. First I need a bow and some arrows. Bows are of different length depending on the height of the archer.
Arrows come in different lengths and weights too depending on the style of shooting and distance to the target.
Mayumi gives us a some chalk which makes it easier to handle the bow and arrow.
Next up Mayumi gives us a crash course in holding the bow, loading the arrow, aiming and positioning myself into place at the shooting spot. The place where one stands to shoot arrows is called Sha-i [射位].
Now its time to try it on my own. As with many things, it looks easy - until one tries it out for themselves ^^;
No beginners luck this time round - the only time I managed to hit the target was when the arrow bounced off the grass and hit a different target ^^;
When I was just about to fire off the arrow, I could feel my heart pumping and hear a piercing silence around me. Kyudo is also known as the Ritsuzen [立禅] or the "Standing Zen" which encompasses everything from the control of breathing, listening, sight and movement.
Some guidelines on shooting. I really enjoyed Kyudo and would love to find time to learn it. There are not many schools which teach Kyudo as an after school activitiy due to the space that's needed to hold a dojo and shooting range. Many students choose Yashio High School because they have the Kyudo facilities.
Going to have a look at some more of the students practicing.
Whenever the arrow hits the target, all the students would shout "Sha!" together. Sha meaning "Shoot" [射].
After a while the area around the targets become filled with arrows. The students would then shout "Onegaishimasu" which means its safe to go out and retrieve the arrows.
The Kyudo activity went on until about 19:00 where many of the students then took off to the part time jobs that they had.
Yashio High School has brought up a load of Kyudo students who have won many tournaments across Japan.
Then its time to gather for the group photo.
Sensei looks up some narration that we need for the show.
Narration is read by our lovely Mayumi-san.
Kyudo wear is folded up neat n tidy at the end of the day.
The targets are removed and the earth mound is then flattened out for the next day - this is also the responsibility of the students. Students in Japan also clean and sweep the classrooms too which I think is a great way to teach responsibility and ownership.
The targets take a rest until the next day ready to be shot at.
Snap with Mayumi-san at the front of the dojo.
Back in my days at high school there were no sporting activities at all but we did do some rounders in secondary school. I was also lousy at football - I would always be the last one that each team picked and had the pleasure of the other students constantly aiming the ball at my face to break my glasses - as you can see I had a "fun" time during my younger school days.
Anyway, what sporting activities does/did your school offer? If they don't, do you do any sports in your own time?
Thanks to the headmaster and everybody at Yashio High School - see you again soon!
And if you read up to here, you will probably want to watch the clip that we filmed.
Other Japanese high school related coverage below with more to come.