So, up fairly early for a fairly touristy day (photos below, I was testing out the blogging straight from Flickr option), but anyway, I headed allllll the way down the Odakyu Line to Odawara. It actually took about 2 hours door to door which was a little bit longer than I'd anticipated, but I had a really interesting book with me, so that was fine. It's a book called Strip City which is about the one year odyssey across America which Lily, an ex stripper turned journalist takes to come to terms with her 10 years as a dancer. Its interesting, illuminating, funny, shocking, and entertaining.
In Odawara, I headed to the castle, which is really pretty - perched up on a hill and overlooking the city and the water. I wasn't actually there to see the castle predominantly though, so I headed down into the park of the castle to see the horseback archery (Yabusame)which is what I was actually there for. It was pretty interesting - there were using stocky cob type ponies, dressed up in traditional tack and costumes (the saddles look kind of like western saddles without a horn, but the stirrups are really long and kind of flat scoops - they reminded me of grain scoops without the handle/sides - I think this is so that when the riders are standing up to shoot the bows as they gallop along, they have an easier time balancing.) The riders were also dressed in traditional costumes, which were pretty cool - there was a pretty even split of men and women, and I think they competed in mixed classes, but I'm not actually 100% sure about that. Other tack included tie downs, cruppers, and fringes all over the place. Incidentally, a lot of the ponies were studs.
The ponies were all pretty rough and ready, but so cute! Good at their jobs as well - basically, the riders went galloping down a 300 (ish) metre track (with ropes running down both sides of the track). A few seconds in, the riders drop the reins (short, cloth, and tied together), and the ponies keep galloping down the track as the riders stand up in the funny flat, scoopy stirrups, hold up their bows (about 5 feet long), and then string them and shoot an arrow at a target 90 degrees to the left. A hundred metres later, they repeat the process. Each rider gets 2 or 3 goes at it. The targets have lots of concentric circles, and then depending on where they get the arrow on the target, you get a different amount of points. Some riders missed the targets completely, or failed to get their bows strung in time (its all pretty quick, so hardly surprising!)
Today was just the preliminary rounds (tomorrow there is a parade and stuff as well, but I can't go tomorrow), but in the break, there were four kids practicing for the kiddy archery tomorrow. It was hilarious - they weren't actually 'archering', but they were practicing the runs down the path. They had two tiny (10-11hh) paint shetland type ponies which were absolutely adorable! The kids were also dressed up in the traditional costumes, and so cute! I want to try it!
After I watched the archery, I walked through the little flea market they had set up next door, and then headed back up the hill to the castle. Around the castle is a random little zoo (peacocks, monkeys, pheasants, and bizarrely and sadly, an elephant who has been there for 57 years in a tiny pen!) I went into the castle, which is actually a recreation of the original structure on the outside, but modernized (well 60s style) in the inside. The inside is four floors of artifacts, maps, models, etc. It was pretty interesting, and they did a decent job of incorporating English into the whole thing. At the top, you can walk around on a viewing platform, and look over the city and out to the water.
Headed back home at about 5, worked on a movie review for work, finished my stripper book, watched the Apprentice (season 1) and made some very yummy pancakes - I got the recipe from allrecipes.com and they were great! I didn't make the fruit topping, but the pancakes themselves were good - I don't think I've ever put vanilla in pancakes before, but its a great addition!
Tomorrow, I teach and then march in the Saint Patrick's Day parade, which should be entertaining, and then maybe soccer...
PS - happy Saint Patrick's Day, and Happy Diabetes Day to me (14 years, yikes!)