About 2,000 archers get together at Sanjusange-do Temple, one of the longest buildings in the world, for Tô-shiya, on the Sunday closest to January 15. Twenty-year-olds join advanced-level archers to celebrate their coming of age.
Archers compete in groups of six and shoot arrows at targets of one meter of diameter set 60 meters away, which requires a high level of expertise. Each archer has two arrows and two minutes to shoot them at each round.
The ceremony is said to date back to the 12th century but the contest really started in the Edo period (1603 – 1868). Then archers had to shoot as many arrows as they could in the target within 24 hours. To this day, the record is still Wasa DAIHACHIRO’s, who shot 8,132 arrows into the target in 1688. The temple pillars are marked with the arrows shot by samurai who missed the target.
For many visitors, the contest is also an opportunity to visit Sanjusange-do Temple, built in the 12th century, and to admire the 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, set in the main hall.