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Photo By: Discover Shimane
Region
Chugoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Matsue
Population
761,499

Tsuwano Yabusame Festival

Watch traditional mounted archery held on a course lined with cherry blossom trees.

By Laura Payne

Tsuwano, a small town in western Shimane Prefecture, is known for castle ruins, a major Inari shrine and rich cultural traditions. Cherry blossom viewing season (from late March to mid-April) is one of the most popular times to visit Tsuwano because of the annual Yabusame Festival—a demonstration of traditional mounted archery held on a course lined with cherry blossom trees. Typically held on the first Sunday of April, this is one of the most famous festivals in Tsuwano.

A Samurai Heritage and Shinto Ritual

Tsuwano Yabusame Festival

Photo by: Discover Shimane Yabusame is one style to pray for good harvests, peace and health.

Mounted archery is over 1,000 years old in Japan. It was an essential skill for samurai and an act of prayer performed at Shinto shrines. There are different styles of mounted archery in Japan. Yabusame is performed to pray for good harvests, peace and health.

Tsuwano’s Yabusame Festival takes place at Washibara Hachimangu Shrine, which boasts a yabusame course that is over 400 years old. Dressed in outfits styled after clothes from Japan’s Kamakura period (1185 – 1333), riders gallop their horses down the course and shoot at three wooden targets, attempting to break them with direct hits. This task is more difficult now because modern horses are larger and finish the course faster. The festival usually consists of a morning and afternoon demonstration with other ceremonies held beforehand.

Spectators watch the yabusame from a designated area next to the course. Many photographers join this crowd to capture a shot of the riders against a backdrop of cherry blossoms.

Views of Old Tsuwano

Tsuwano Japan Heritage Center

Photo by: PIXTA/ PIXSTAR Stop by the Heritage Center and staff can guide you on what else to see and do in town.

The Tsuwano Japan Heritage Center—a small museum in the center of town—offers multilingual explanations of local cultural traditions. Spot the Hyakkeizu (One Hundred Landscapes of Tsuwano), paintings from the late 19th century that portray life in feudal Tsuwano. One painting shows a mounted archer participating in the Yabusame Festival and others illustrate the cherry blossoms at Washibara Hachimangu Shrine. These paintings, which speak to the historic significance of the shrine and festival, are one reason why Washibara Hachimangu is a designated Important Cultural Property.

Visiting sites portrayed in the Hyakkeizu is a popular sightseeing activity in Tsuwano. Stop by the Heritage Center and staff can guide you on what else to see and do in town.

Things To Know

Attending the festival

The festival’s date and starting time are subject to change depending on the condition of the day. Arriving early to choose a viewing spot is recommended.

Pets and photography tripods are not allowed at the festival. Please avoid flash photography as this may startle horses.

How To Get There

Address

By train

Washibara Hachimangu Shrine is accessible by bus from Tsuwano station.

Local and express trains departing from Shin-Yamaguchi station stop at Tsuwano as well as the steam locomotive SL Yamaguchi.

Within Shimane or Tottori Prefecture, Tsuwano is accessible via the Super Oki limited express. Other express and local trains can be used to reach Tsuwano if you transfer to the Yamaguchi Line at Masuda station.

By car

There is no parking lot at Washibara Hachimangu Shrine. Roadside Station Tsuwano Onsen Nagomi-no-Sato provides a nearby parking lot, but if you plan to use it, arrive early as it is known to fill up quickly.

Where To Stay

Condominium Tsuwano Sou Vacation Rental
  • 84-4 Morimura, Kanoashi-gun Tsuwano-cho, Shimane, 699-5604 Japan
  • ¥20,000 - ¥24,000
  • 1.4 km
Tsuwano Onsen Yutorelo Tsuwano
  • 82-3 Ushiroda, Kanoashi-gun Tsuwano-cho, Shimane, 699-5605 Japan
  • ¥7,700 - ¥36,300
  • 4.18/5 (230 reviews)
  • 2.3 km

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