Kyudo, traditional Japanese archery

Many traditional Japanese pastimes are extremely regimented, leaving little room for spontaneity, and Kyudo, Japanese archery, is no different. With the emphasis very much on ritual and technique, archers must always complete the hassetsu (eight stages of shooting) — a set of steps so painstakingly followed that the eventual release of the arrow appears merely a part of the process, rather than the main purpose. An idea that the martial art’s association with zen Buddhism, and an emphasis on meditation and self-improvement, would seem to support.

In competitions, however, it is actually hitting the target that ultimately counts, although along with the aforementioned hassetsu, archers must also perform an intricate series of actions as they enter the dojo. Plus on top of that they are also required to kneel after each shot before slowly rising again when it’s their turn.

kyudo Japanese archery

An effort that, along with the deadly seriousness of everybody involved, and the complete and utter silence, looked more like an exercise in discomfort, than development.

Yet despite this, the very obvious dedication on display, and the almost reverential atmosphere in and around the dojo, made it absolutely fascinating to watch.

kyudo Japanese archery

Japanese love and longevity?

There were a few things that caught my eye with these two train travellers. There was of course the fashion. Not to mention the posture and expressions. But perhaps most of all it was the way they seemed to encapsulate the relationship — at least from the outside looking in — of many Japanese couples their age.

Japanese couple

Tokyo Times now back to pre-summer pace

After a month or so of minimal site activity while I was in the motherland, I am now in Japan again, meaning Tokyo Times will return to its regular routine. So it’s back to walking all those labyrinth-like streets. Back to almost always carrying a camera. And back to photographing the city’s much-touted fashionable shops and frenetic pace of life.

Tokyo sleeper

Dirty, quite disgusting, Tokyo

Tokyo is often commended for its cleanliness; a compliment that on the whole is very much warranted. But, perhaps inevitably, certain spots are as grubby and thoroughly unwelcoming as those found in most of the world’s big cities.

dirty Tokyo