Toshiya archery contest

Japanese archery is also known as kyudo.
Long ago, bow and arrow were used as weapons in Japan, but at the end of the Muromachi period (1338-1573) all this changed when kyudo started to develop itself as a martial art, in which formality, good manners and discipline of body and mind were more appreciated than victory or defeat.
An excellent opportunity to watch archers (in traditional dress) in a 13th century surrounding (which is classified as a National Monument) is half January in the Sanjusangen-do temple in Kyoto.

Archery as a means of predicting future, Kyoto   
Picture: Frantisek Straud (www.phototravels.net)

The archers are lined up under a part of the roof of the temple and aim at a target that is at a distance of  60 or 120 meter away. Every participant is shooting two arrows. Great skill is required to hit the targets, as the arrows have to be shot in an upward arc in order to be able to bridge the distance.

Amongst the participants are a number of young people, using this occasion to celebrate their coming of age.
The ladies (undoubtedly the eye-catchers) are dressed in splendid furisodes.

On the same day, Yanagi-no-okaji is held. This is a ritual in which New Year's water is purified and then sprinkled over the bystanders by means of the branch of a willow tree.

More info about Toshiya can be found on: http://www.case.edu/artsci/engl/marling/~~~~/20.html