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Golden week archery

”Golden Week” is a stretch of consecutive holidays in Japan, that combined with a weekend a day or two of PTO can be like 10 days off. Lots of people take the opportunity to return to their hometowns to visit family and friends, and others go sightseeing… many many people come to Kyoto. And with Covid and masking restrictions going away, there is a lot of pent up wanderlust for the Old Capital. So we decided early that we did not want to go anywhere. But with the kids home from school, we could not capitulate to hours and hours of daily YouTube!

During Spring Break, while traveling southern Kyushu and exploring the samurai culture of the Shimadzu of Kagoshima (photos) and Tanegashima (photos), we had some chances to shoot a few arrows in the Heki Ryu style. The kids enjoyed the experience, and since we are always looking for things for our kids to do to help them discover their passion, we signed them up for a three day archery camp.

Composite of two photos. LEFT: Chad and daughters lined up and kneeling with Japanese bows at full draw. The kids faces are obscured with Girl Emoji. RIGHT: From behind a girl kneeling drawer and aims at a target surrounded by tropical trees.
Chad and kids shooting Japanese bows while in Kyushu.

Kyudo, traditional Japanese archery, requires young archers to be at lease of middle school age, which meant my youngest wouldn’t be able to join. So we opted for an archery club south of Kyoto, nestled in the mountains to the east of Jōyō. The range is in a building on the grounds of the “Rehabilitation Hospital.” I am not sure who started the archery club, but many of the archers there (including some serious competitors), used wheelchairs. The club was very welcoming to everyone, and it dawned on me how inclusive a sport archery can be. I can stand beside both my children at the shooting line, being coached by archers young and old and with different abilities, and we can all share in the fun!

The camp was two hours for three days. We used recurve bows with sights. We all started off on 16 lbs draws, but I had a gaggle of elderly archers egging me on so soon I had a 20 lbs bow with all sorts of attachments on it. They even gave me a bow with a 38 lb draw to try out! I was definitely being over-coached, but it was fun and I learned a lot about the basics of archery and what kind of sport it is.

For the first couple of days we really just focused on the basics and achieving good “grouping” (getting your arrows to consistently land in the same place), extending the range from 5 meters to about 10 meters. On the last day we learned how to count points and did a “competitive” round. (I crumbled under the pressure!) Lastly, they got out the balloons and the kids and I had fun (and frustration!) aiming for that satisfying POP! sound.

Since the range is pretty far from our house, we can’t take it up as a weekly hobby. But they will have another camp in the fall and both my kids said they were up for going. We enjoyed our time. The sport has a lot of depth but is still accessible, and a good bonding experience for parents and children. Recommended!