It is that time again, the weekend recap!
Saturday was the the ALT Hanami Party. It was held this year at the kintaikyo in Iwakuni. The river side is lined with sakura trees causing the usually green landscape to come to life with blooming cherry blossoms. Since it is sakura season the river bank is loaded with people, our little gathering included. The event started at 11:00am and lasted well into the late afternoon. ALTs came and went as they pleased. We even had a few special guests attend from Yamaguchi University.
Together we laughed, we sang, and someone maybe even cried. Drinks flowed freely and the food was festive. Our group stuck out like a soar thumb at times but that is what happens when you get a group of loud, mostly white, foreigners together. Over all the ALT Hanami was a success.
Sunday a smaller group of ALTs left the boundaries of our large rural Yamaguchi to the even more rural prefecture of Shimane to visit Tsuwano. There we would watch traditional Japanese horseback archery, Yabusame. The event is held yearly around this time.
Between the horses, sakura, and danger it was straight out of a Japanese traditional film. Participants were dressed in traditional styled clothing that would have been warn during such and event in the past.
There was two sessions, a morning and afternoon one. The morning portion takes a little longer than the afternoon because in true Japanese fashion there was long opening ceremony.
Right from the start the event was enthralling. Audience members of all ages held their breath in anticipation. Some held cameras at the ready, photographers waited for the best shot. When the signal was given, the rider was off.
Horses hooves had clattered as each rider sat perfectly balanced atop a galloping horse. Armed with traditional styled arrows and a long bow, each individual rider took turns shooting at a none moving target. As this happened, judges had watched quietly as wood targets shattered and splintered from the sharp double pronged arrows. The crowd had roared with applause with each connecting hit.
Today, yabusame is not commonly practiced. There are other cities within Japan that hold events such as this, but the number of participants is limited. This causes the event to be even more exciting due to the rarity of it. If you ever find yourself traveling in Japan I highly recommend finding events such as this. They are very traditional in nature and allow a person to become closer to the true culture of Japan.
After watching both sessions our group moved to the local shrine Taikodaniinari. Since the city is located within a valley, the shrine was atop one of the smaller mountains. The shrine is rather large and well known for its charms for safe driving/travel. To reach the shrine there is a stairway walking trail lined with the traditional bright fox-red colored tori gates. If you would rather not take that rout, there is a roadway to the top. Parking is available as well.
At the top the view is amazing.With how well kept the shrines paint job is mixed with the surrounding nature, it is truly breath taking. Very peaceful and calming.