I had a free hour or two on my last day in Tokyo so wandered over to Meiji Jingu. I thought I might just catch some people practicing, and then check into the rules for practicing there myself next time I come. Instead as I got closer to the kyudojo I started seeing people in hakama, and it turns out that today is the All-Japan tournament for university students. I only got to stay for an hour or so. The spectator seats were all full, so for better or worse I ended up standing right at the edge of the shajo, watching some of the girls shoot.
They were pretty good, and seemed remarkably cool given both the heat/humidity and the pressure. In addition to just shooting, they had time limits: 7 minutes for a team of three to shoot four arrows each, so 35 seconds per shot from uchiokoshi to tsurune. When they went overtime there was a very loud buzzer, though at least one of the students “caught out” like that managed to hit the target anyway. Good for her, even if it didn’t count.
The thing I noticed most about the students is how they always seem to be checking the position of the arrow from uchiokoshi to kai. Sometimes this was very pronounced — actually tilting their heads up to look at the arrow, then only shifting their gaze to the target as they approached kai. It’s not standard form as I know it, but it seemed very common, and the thing is, I’m not really sure what they gain by it. It’s good to keep the arrow level, of course, but by the time you make it to the nationals I imagined they would have that down. Ooops. Battery about to die.