What is Toshiya
Toshiya（通矢, とおしや), means “long range arrow/passing arrow”. In the old time, it was one kind of popular archery exhibition contest, also namely Dô-sha（堂射, どうしゃ）or Dô-ma-e（堂前, どうまえ）. It was held at the approximately 121m long west veranda of Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto, Japan.
Ōyakazu (大矢数, おおやかず) was the most famous among all events. Archers shot as many arrows as possible for a 24-hour period, from the southern end of the veranda to the northern.During the early Edo period , Toshiya had its greatest popularity. With the support from different feudal domains (藩, Han), many archers attempted to break the records until the large-scaled Toshiya suspended from Mid Edo period.
Related comics and animations
There was a Japanese comics, titled as “Te-n-wo-i-ru” (天を射る, means “shooting the sky”) by author NISHIOGI Yumie (西荻 弓絵, にしおぎ ゆみえ). It features the main character as HOSHINO Shigenori (星野茂則, ほしの しげのり). He was a fuedal warrior(samurai) who belonged to the Owari Domain, during early Edo period.
On 28 May 1662, HOSHINO Shigenori took part in Sanjusangendo Temple’s archery contest in Kyoto, and established a record of 6,666 successful shots out of 10,025 arrows. This made him as the best archer in the country at the time, breaking the record by YOSHIMI Daiemon (吉見台右衛門) from Kishū (紀州) Domain. HOSHINO was then appointed by the Owari Domain to lead the infantry, with income of 500 koku (石, a unit expressing value of rice or a land co-relating the rice production.) In 1668, KASAI Sonoemon from Kishū Domain set a record of 7,077 hits out of a total of 9,000 arrows and broke HOSHINO’s record.
On 2 May 1669 , HOSHINO challenged again and broke KASAI’s record by achieving 8,000 hits out of 10,542 shots, and restored his brand as the best in Japan. This was originally a 24-hour attempt, started from 6pm of 1 May. However, the new record was attained at noon of 2 May, the challenge was ended 6 hours ahead of the finishing time, in order to encourage the next record breaking. HOSHINO had his another reward of 300 koku increased. 15 years later, on 27 April 1686, WASA Norito, Daihachiro (和佐範遠, 大八郎) from Kishū Domain became the best archer with 8,133 arrows hit out of 13,053.
NAITO Masahiro 内藤 政優 (ないとう まさひろ), the 5th feudal lord of Koromo Domain held a Tōshiya at the west corridor in the Todai-ji Temple (東大寺) on 20~21 Apr 1842 in Tenpō era. On the second day of the event, samurai of Koromo Domain, ANDO Hayataro (安藤 早太郎, あんどう はやたろう) made a new national record of 75.5% hit rate, by 8,685 hits out of a total of 11,500 arrows.
Although it was a record established at a different venue and in a different building, hence, not being a direct comparable to those in Sanjusangendo Temple, it was generally considered as a more difficult Tōshiya in the Todai-ji Temple. Official from the Owari Domain also recognized it was a magnificent historical record.
Toshiya in modern days
Nowadays, Toshiya becomes the 60m long range archery competition of modern Kyudo. Archers now shoot at the plaza in front of west veranda of Sanjusangendo Temple, from the south to the north. It is named as ‘the Festival of the Great Target’ (大的全国大会, Oomato Zenkoku Taikai)
It is a sunday event, around the middle of January every year. The participants are of two groups. One group are new adults at their age of 20, wearing traditional clothing – Furisode Kimono, who also celebrate their coming-of-age ceremony. The other group is formed by title-holders, the senior kyudo practitioners. All of them should submit their applications via the All Nippon Kyudo Federation (ANKF).
Every participant will bring 2 arrows to shoot. Only those who hit both can proceed to next round. Champion would be determined by the second round, who hits closest to the target centre. To get the first round pass is already very difficult. I witness only 6 can proceed to second round among over 1000 archers in the female new adult group.
If you are interested, you can book your tickets now. 2023 is the first time since the epidemic that the event is open to the public, and last year, only the contestants were open and live online, while the year before was closed! Don’t forget to apply for “Visit Japan Web” before you leave.
If you want to stay in Kyoto, you can refer to “Moxy Hotel Kyoto“, “Hiyori Chapter Kyoto” or “HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO” are all recommended. Of course, if you’ve finished visiting Sanjusangendo-doriya, don’t miss the chance to experience kimono in Kyoto, whether you wear a yukata, kimono, or hakama like these young people.
Wai Ming, Languages and the way of saying/listening are my way to heal my curiosity. As an architect, I had made enough reasons(excuses) to travel. Love to read books and read interpersonal atmosphere. Two shooting hobbies: Photography and Kyudo.
Words from translator: I hope you enjoy reading this article this year, as happy as watching it on site. We look forward to travelling in the coming years, and view in person.
Sanjusangendo Archery Contest Photo
Sanjusangendo Archery Contest map