Yabusame (archery on horseback) is a very popular festival in Japan. This festival usually sets three targets for the archery competion. This event has been around since the year 896 and became popular in the year 1096. On September 17, 1136 at the Kasuga Wakamiya Matsuri Festival, this event was shown to the public for the first time and attended by ten knights. The festival was, also, used to select the best archers that would be compete on the battlefield in the Kamakura period. In the present day, the festival is held in several places in Japan, such as in Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, and Kamakura and Shimogamo shrines in Kyoto. In ancient times the festival was only attended by a few chosen ones who were good at archery. However, today this festival can be entered by everyone, but the person must first study in special schools of Yabusame. One of the special schools for Yabusame is Ogasawara, founded by Ogasawara Nagakiyo. It was instructed by the shogun Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1199) at the beginning of the archery school. At the Yabusame festival, the contestants wear traditional samurai armor and use traditional weapons.
In addition to the Yabusame Festival, there are other interesting and unique festivals in Japan, such as the Obon festival. Obon is a series of ceremonies and traditions in Japan to celebrate the arrival of the ancestral spirits. The festival is usually held as a holiday on August 12th through August 16th . To enliven the Obon festival, a dance show called Awa Odori is usually performed. In addition to dance performance, there are several other unique traditions to celebrate the Obon festival, namely:
• Mukaebi Ritual, this ritual is the first procedure to celebrate the Obon festival. In this ritual every person lights a lantern with the purpose to guide the spirits back to his house.
• Ozen Ritual, this ritual is usually done in the house, at the altar of a family member who had died. An offering of rice, fruits, green tea, sake and sweet cakes is usually made to resemble a lotus leaf. Ozen has a sense of giving or sharing food with the spirit of a deceased person.
• Ohakamairi Ritual, this ritual is a ritual to visit and clean the graves of the ancestors. What is unique about this ritual is that they clean the headstones using a scoop and water which is dedicated to this ritual.
• Okuribi Ritual and Toronagashi Ritual
On the last day of the Obon festival, Japanese people perform Okuribi ritual. This ritual is performed with the goal to deliver the spirits back to nature. The lantern will be re-ignited with the hope that the spirits who come to the Obon festival can be returned to their nature. For those who live near the river there is another tradition that performed, called Toronagashi ritual. This ritual has the same goal with Okuribi Ritual, but the difference is they float the paper lanterns that have been lit in the river watching the lanterns slowly drift towards the sea.
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