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Japanese Archery and Archers
by E. Gilbertson
Transactions and Proceeding of the Japan Society, Vol. IV.
twenty-eigth ordinary meeting,
third of the sixth session, March 10th, 1897.
[Held in the Hall at 20, Hanover Square, W.]
Part 1 of 12

Professor W. ANDERSON, F.R.C.S., Chairman of Council, took the Chair at 8.30 p.m., when a Paper on "JAPANESE ARCHERY AND ARCHERS," by Mr. E. GILBERTSON, Honorary M.J.S., was read by Mr. CHARLES HOLME, Honorary Secretary J.S.

NOTWITHSTANDING the introduction of firearms in 1542, the bow was looked upon by the Japanese, until a very late period, as a most important weapon of war, and skilful archers were held in high estimation. The exploits of their military celebrities as archers are among the most popular ones, and the most carefully handed down, while we hear nothing until quite modern times, of the part played by artillery and small arms. Archery was an essential branch of the education of the nobles, and the habit of shooting from horseback while in swift motion, so as to deliver an arrow accurately in any direction, was diligently cultivated. Archery, as an art, was probably introduced from China, for we frequently find archers represented, on metal work especially, in Chinese costume, the subjects being also derived from Chinese history. One of the most common of these is connected with the famous Chinese archer Yoyuki, whom they called the Shogun of Divine Archery. He is reported to have brought down a goose that was flying above a cloud, and therefore invisible, his aim being directed solely by the cry of the bird.

The "Shuho Bukuro" tells us, that in the autumn of 988, Shokwa, the daughter of Yoyuki, appeared to Raiko (Yorimitsu) in a dream, or vision, and told him that her father having taught her all the secrets of archery, she was desirous of handing them down to posterity, and knew of no one more worthy than Raiko through whom to transmit them. When he awoke he found before him a bow, arrows, etc, and through her instructions became a most skilful archer. There is, however, a slight chronological difficulty connected with this legend, namely, that Raiko was not born until 1037.