Kyudo Notebook: Turkeys

Oh, which reminds me. I was talking a few weeks back with a friend who is a professor of Japanese history and specializes in trade. Somehow the topic of arrow fletchings came up, probably because the most valued feathers were/are from birds that are now classified as endangered, so as far as I know only one person in all of Japan has a license to trade in them (it’s Japan: there are exceptions to every rule). Anyway I pointed out that the most common feathers used these days were from turkeys (usually bleached then dyed), which is interesting because, of course, turkeys are New World birds, so the feathers have to be imported. Just the thing to catch her interest.

Although to Americans turkey feathers probably don’t seem all that special, and the turkey isn’t exactly revered (except just before Thanksgiving brunch), she pointed out that in the history of trade the situation could well have been turned around, and the lowly turkey feather may have been seen as exotic and a status symbol. It reminded me of the samurai helmets with rabbit ears on top.

The idea seems a bit comical at first

Bad Mood

Samurai Spirit

but apparently the idea is that rabbits are extremely virile (as in “going at it like rabbits”), and that was considered a positive image to project on the battlefield (SDF infantry helmets no longer have this feature, for reasons no one wishes to discuss). But I know if I did see a giant Miffy — especially one with a bad attitude — riding at me on horseback, I’d probably think twice, too. I’m not quite sure what I would think. “Is this some kind of weird dream?” But of course that would give the warrior bunny just the edge he was counting on.

So I’m going to see if I can get more information. It could turn out to be an interesting topic. Most of the highly valued feathers come from a nearby country that also doesn’t have a very good record of environmentalism, so the trade is alive and well. The guy with the license told me he gets them by the crate. No wonder the birds are endangered.

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3 Responses to Kyudo Notebook: Turkeys

  1. Zen says:

    Turkeys were almost the national bird here in the states.

  2. karamatsu says:

    Now that you mention it, I do vaguely remember hearing that. I guess it was probably more important to people back in the days when people were closer to the land. They must have seemed like gifts from heaven, as was most of the New World. I wonder how it would have affected the character of the nation to have the turkey as its emblem rather than a predator/scavenger? Wikipedia says that Japan’s de-facto national bird is the green pheasant. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a green pheasant. I would have picked the crane.

  3. JM says:

    I haven’t been wandering around on the Internet in some time. It is nice to run across your blog and get more input on Kyudo.

    Zen is always a step ahead of me. I see he found you first! 🙂

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