I thought I would mention that I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of fudeko, the powder you use on your left hand to keep the amount of friction between your hand and the grip of the bow “just right.” For a long time I didn’t use anything, but once I started working on yugaeri it seemed to help.
The traditional stuff that most people use are ashes left over from burning rice husks.
As it happens, people are doing that right now all around here, so the air is full of smoke! It works OK but the problem is that it leaves your hand, and anything you touch, grey, and some people don’t like it for that reason. Also if it gets in your eyes it can hurt quite a bit. I imagine the ash is alkaline.
Some kyudo shops now also sell an off-white version that is much more expensive and is marketed as “natural,” though I don’t know that there is anything artificial about the regular kind.
But to me it didn’t work as well. Rather than ash, it’s more like sand, and comes flowing (too fast) out of the bottle, and then doesn’t really stick to my hand very well.
A third option comes as a set: a spray bottle of some kind of lotion and a bottle of bright white powder. It’s called tenkyu (which they render as “Thank You”) and it’s the best I’ve found so far, but also the most complicated.
What you do is spray a little of the lotion onto your hand, let it become a little tacky, then shake some of the powder onto your hand and rub it it. This creates a kind of dry surface that really works well for me. The only problems are: the complexity (you have to have all these bottles), and the powder tends to cake in the bottle so it may come out all at once and, being bright white, it stands out. Especially if you touch your hakama. Also it has a scent, which although mild, seems to go against the simple aesthetic of the dojo.
A fourth way… I’ve also seen people who just used just a tiny spray bottle of glycerin. That’s much simpler than any of the others, and it’s clear, so no hand prints left behind. Nobody seems to sell this. People just buy some glycerin at a drugstore and put it in whatever spray bottle is handy. I’ve also wondered about the white chalk that people like gymnasts and baseball pitchers use. Much to experiment with, but maybe after the shinsa.
PS The photographs above are from the Sambu Kyuguten web site. So far they are also the only kyudo goods shop I’ve seen that also has a full English site and will ship worldwide. I’ve ordered things from them here in Japan and the system seems quite good. So, possibly useful for some of you!