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Home > Articles > Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society > Japanese Archery and Archers > Part 3
Japanese Archery and Archers
by E. Gilbertson
Part 3 of 12

These bows must have been very powerful, and render less improbable the story that it took three ordinary men to bend the bow of Tametomo, which was 8 feet 6 inches long. Minamoto Tametomo was the grandson of Yoshiiye (Hachiman Taro), and was very tall, his arms being so abnormally long that he could, as it was reported, draw a bowstring eighteen hand-breadths, or about 5 feet He was the brother of Minamoto Yoshitomo, and in the quarrel between the Emperor Goshira-kawa and the ex-Emperor Shutoku, in 1156, the brothers took different sides, Tametomo defending the western gate of the palace that had been fortified by Shutoku. His brother Yoshitomo, who made a demonstration against it, was warned off by Tametomo shooting away one of the silver studs ornamenting his helmet, the arrow burying itself in the gate-post Taira no Kiyomori, who supported Goshirakawa, made an attack which was led by two of his generals, the brothers Itogo and Itoroku Kagetsuna; but Tametomo shot Itogo through the body, the same arrow mortally wounding Itoroku. The partisans of Shutoku were defeated, and for his share in the rising Tametomo had the sinews of his arms cut to disable him, and was exiled to Oshima. But his arms appear to have healed, and he induced the people of Oshima to revolt against Kiyomori, who sent a boat-load of soldiers to arrest him. Tametomo, however, sunk the boat by shooting at it, and became, it is said by some, the ancestor of the kings of Liukiu.


Plate II.
a. Utsobu Quiver of Yoshitsune.
b. Kari Yebira or Quiver.
c. Standing Quiver.
d. Quiver.

One of the earliest stories of archers is that of Fujiwara Hidesato, Kami of Shimosuke. In the year 940 he was sent with Taira no Sadamori to suppress the rebellion of Taira no Masakado, who, at the battle of Kushima, was hit with an arrow by Sadamori, and, falling from his horse, was beheaded by Hidesato. This is the account in the "Nihon o dai ichiran" which is supplemented by the legend that the head went bounding along through several provinces, to the consternation of the people, stopping in the Kanda quarter of Yedo, where the temple of Mioshinji now stands. There the head was buried, and, as Masakado was of the imperial blood, the temple was dedicated to him.

It is uncertain when or why Hidesato dropped the Fujiwara in his name, and called himself Tawara Toda, Tawara signifying a bag for grain, but it is under that name that he figures as the hero who slew the gigantic mukade, or centipede. There are different versions of the story, varying in the details; but all agree that when the monster appeared, Hidesato had only three arrows, two of which glanced off the creature's head, but wetting the point of the third in his mouth, he pierced its eye, and it fell dead. The exploit is commemorated by a chapel near the bridge of Seta, the scene of the adventure, and it is popularly believed that a centipede can be killed by keeping its head wet with human saliva.

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