The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
Home > Articles > Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society > Japanese Archery and Archers > Part 4
Japanese Archery and Archers
by E. Gilbertson
Part 4 of 12

One is tempted to suppose that the bows with metal ends must have been of early date ; for not only do we find Jingo Kogo writing on the rock with hers, but Yoriyoshi, the father of Hachiman Taro, is reported to have caused a spring to issue from a rock by striking it with the end of his bow, after praying to the gods. This was during his campaign against Abe no Sadato in 1057, when his army found itself in a waterless district. During the same campaign we find his son Yoshiiyé, then only twenty years old, distinguishing himself as an archer. Yoriyoshi being defeated at the battle of Tori-no-umi in Oshu, found himself, with only seven followers, surrounded by the enemy; but Yoshiiyé plied his bow so skilfully that the whole party escaped. It was on this occasion that he acquired the name of Hachiman Taro, the Young Hachiman, according to the "Nihon o dai ichiran" Hachiman being the god of war.

During the siege of Kanazawa in 1057, Kamakura Gongoro Kagemasa, then only sixteen years of age, was shot in the orbit of the eye by an arrow, and without staying to remove it, being a skilful archer, shot at and killed the man who wounded him. His companion, Miura Tametsugu, finding the arrow firmly imbedded in the bone, put his foot against Kagemasa's face to get a purchase for withdrawing it, an indignity fiercely resented by the young warrior.

When Nitta Yoshisada was defending the Emperor Go Daigo against Ashikaga Takauji, he had with him a celebrated archer, Honma Nagoshiro. The fleet of Takauji made its appearance at Wada no Misaki, and Nitta Yoshisada opposed it on shore. Honma Nagoshiro attached a very insulting message to an arrow, and aimed at a bird hovering over the ship on which was Takauji, and upon which the bird fell. Yoshisada was defeated, and when Takauji accompanied the Emperor to Kioto, he avenged the affront by putting Nagoshiro to death.

This subject is often represented, and is frequently confounded with the exploit of Nasu no Yoichi; but that is of a date 180 years earlier. It was in 1180 that the Emperor Takakura gave to the temple at Itsukushima thirty fans, with the hi-no-maru, the disk of the sun, upon them. When his successor, the child emperor Antoku, was taken thither by the Taira, who were flying from the Minamoto, the priest gave him one of these fans, assuring him that the disk thereon was the spirit of the late emperor, which would cause the arrows of the enemy to recoil upon them. Believing this, the Taira placed the fan upon the top of a pole erected in the bow of one of their ships, which they moored near the shore, and one of the ladies of the court dared the Minamoto to shoot at it Nasu no Yoichi Munetaka rode into the water, and with an arrow struck the fan on its rivet, shattering it, to the consternation of the Taira, who were defeated in the battle that ensued. Claiming to be descendants of Munetaka, the Sasake family used as their cognizance, or mon, a fan with a black disk upon it. Another incident of this battle, showing the value attached to the bow of a noted archer as a trophy, is often represented. Yoshitsune is seen swimming his horse to secure a bow floating on the water, that of Noritsune Noto no Kami.