Flip Side of the Japanese Archery Rite-of-Passage Event: Way, Way Too Crowded to Enjoy
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Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Right This Way
path leading to the archery viewing area
annual archery rite of passage at the Sanjusangendo Temple
Kyoto Japan

In my post yesterday about Japanese archery, I concentrated on the short moment each of the 2,000+ archers got during Sunday's day-long event (第62回 三十三間堂大的全国大会) at the Sanjusangendo Temple. Except in the world of calm and concentration that they brought with them for that moment on the shooting platform, the event was an absolute madhouse, with way too many people packed into way too small an area, funneled through an even thinner bottleneck entrance path connecting the archery area with the main temple grounds.

It was absolutely ridiculous, and at one point early on I felt so bad for friends and family of the archers, who had essentially no chance to see their loved one, that I left so as to ease the crowd by one.

The event was scheduled to start at 9am and run until about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, with about 1,100 men (ranked archers who had turned 20 years old during the past year) going first, switching to similarly ranked/aged women somewhere around noon.

I arrived before 10am and wandered around a bit before I found the path to the main-event archery area.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/1600 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
First View
leading to the shooting and viewing areas

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 190mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Lots'a Bows

Eventually I made my way through the solid mass of humanity to where I could actually catch a glimpse of an archer in action, a glimpse possible only because I'm quite a bit taller than average...


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
First View
of an archer in action, possible only because I'm much taller than average

In the naïveté of a first-time attendee, I moved further down range in hopes of finding a thinner crowd, but to no avail...


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
From Mid Range
again enjoying the “benefits” of height, slim as they were

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 220 — map & image datanearby photos
Targets and Indicators

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Half of a Batch
archers came in waves of 12 men each

When a group of a dozen archers was given the platform, each progressed through his two arrows as I described yesterday, independently (and likely not even aware) of the others, though long and related training left a loosely-shared rhythm to the group.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/320 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos

About a third or so of the guys choose to slip their left arm out of their formal hakama costume for the shoot, though I don't know whether it's for less distraction or simply to look baddass. In any case, it certainly had that latter effect, but sadly it was not a custom shared by the ladies when they followed later in the day. 😉

One of the three archers at the blue position above seems to have scored a full bull's-eye:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/320 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Someone Hit the Mark

Eventually I gave up trying to find position downrange and headed back toward the exit, but along the way I paused directly adjacent to the shooting platform (where, if you could actually see the archers, you could look down the row of archers for an interesting view. I had incredible luck to happen upon a spot next to a tree just as a couple decided to extract themselves, and combining a raised bump in the tree root, tippy toes, and my height, I could sometimes get a semi-clear shot...


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 190mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
In Sync

The tree itself was plastered with “Don't Climb!” signs, which is good because if it weren't I'm sure the crowd would have destroyed it...


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/320 sec, f/6.3, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
“Don't Climb the Tree!”

Anyway, with a position that held some promise even though I was fairly far in the back, I started playing with different techniques, since I was almost perfectly in line with them, I had few options beyond the closest archer at the end of the row. Still, I tried various things...


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Selective Focus

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/1250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 125mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 105mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 105mm — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

I like that last one, but this experience was wholly unsatisfying as both a photographer and as a spectator, and I was growing fairly disgusted especially when I could hear friends and parents comment to themselves that they couldn't even see whether their loved one was up yet.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 105mm — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 105mm — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Staredown

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 220 — map & image datanearby photos
View of the Targets

Again a spot opened up slightly and I could get onto the rise of the tree root at the base of the trunk, and with comical stretching I could get tighter shots...


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

It was at this point that I got the sequence in yesterday's post.

I wanted to stay until the women started shooting, but by this point I was ready to give up. I had brought my 300mm f/2 and a stool to stand on, with the hope of capturing something unique, but with the crowd there was no way I could bring out a lens that big, and even if I could, I'd feel to selfish doing so.

I stuck around for another wave or two before leaving...


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 150mm — 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 190mm — 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 190mm — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 190mm — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/800 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Disappointed, I left the archery area and made my slow way through the bottleneck toward the relatively open of the wider temple grounds.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Common Sight

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 175mm — 1/1250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Ladies Starting to Assemble

It turns out that it gets substantially less crowded later in the day, but I'll leave that for another post.

Continued here...


One comment so far...

Hey, you got some great shots. I saw you there and thought of stopping to chat, but I didn’t want to interrupt you in the middle of what looked like some serious shooting. But I wanted to make sure to come visit and see what you were able to photograph. I’m impressed!
I agree that the place was dreadful for spectators. I was amazed that the people in the front would simply not move and let others view, and, like you, I felt worst of all for family and friends who were stuck in the back saying “Is she up there now? Has she started?” That was amazingly selfish of the folks in the front row. I kept standing there thinking that eventually they would give up and let others have a chance to see, but no. I left pretty quickly after getting there, but I am glad you stayed and got these terrific shots.

This is a “story” post, not a photo post, so the shots are pretty bad, but they tell the story. I was even thinking of putting a note in Japanese at the top so that Japanese folks who don’t read the English prose don’t think I think they’re good shots.. that’d be embarrassing. Whoever you are, I wish you would have said “hi”… I don’t find many local photographers to interact with… —Jeffrey

— comment by GJC on January 18th, 2012 at 10:50am JST (5 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink
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