Today I went to Tsuwano with some friends from Hagi. It's a little town, in the next prefecture up, and it's really beautiful. It's 'famous' for having more koi than people in the town - and that certainly seemed the case. Every little pond, no matter how shallow, was populated by over sized carp and outside most shops/shrines were little bowls of baby koi!
Every year there is a horseback archery display (Yabusame). There are 3 targets, probably about 100m apart. The aim is that the riders go along, fast, and shoot at each target. The targets are wooden, and if broken by the arrows, are sold as souveneirs.
Some of the riders were really going fast, but there were a couple who barely seemed to be trotting! It was pretty exciting! There were a couple of riders who didn't hit any of the targets, but 2 managed to hit all 3 and got lots of cheers! Most of the riders were older men, but there was 1 woman, 1 foreigner and 1 High School student who also had a go. The costumes were pretty amazing. They obviously had to incorporate some safety features (chest protection etc) but looked beautiful and awkward to be wearing whilst doing any form of archery.
After the festival we went and explored some more of Tsuwano. We climbed up to a shrine (piddling number of steps compared to the mausoleum we climbed to in Kyoto), but the path was lined with orange tori (Japanese 'gates'), so it was a spectacular climb, and at the top the view was great too.
Tsuwano was crowded, because of the Yabusame, but I think that it is much like Hagi in that it is old and beautiful, and each day the town would be full of Japanese tour groups!