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An International Surprise

A unique festival in Fort Dodge this September was cause for great celebration. The International Horse Archery Festival was the host to two Japanese demonstrators of traditional horse archery. Each presenter brought with them grace, elegance and great honor to the event.

They were Misa Tsuyoshi of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin (originally from Japan/Yamanashi Kanagawa Prefecture) and Naoko Oshida of Tokyo, Japan. Both of the Japanese female horse archers were sponsored by the Iowa Sister States organization with grant funding. The archers represented the Takedaryu School, which strictly keeps and teaches Japanese traditional horse archery.

Each day, Tsuyoshi and Oshida would thrill the crowds with their authentic costume, archery accessories and decorative gear for the horse they rode. The daily performances had Naoko lead in with a small drum and four members of a kyudo school. Authentic looking targets (made of paper or wood shingles), flowers and course apparatus gave a true appearance to what a performance would be like in Japan. Misa would ride on her horse down the roped off track at great speed. With perfect timing, she would set her arrow to her bow and release with great accuracy as it striked the target perfectly. The kyudo performers would signify if her hit were successful with the raising of a flag at each target. Before her first run with the horse, Naoko would beat the drum a few times to let the kyudo members know Misa is ready and they would respond with the signal of a large, colorful fan.
Images representing Japan were evident throughout the festival site with colorful kimonos and large Japanese banners with traditional symbols. A large cake was presented in their honor at the dinner in which the dragonfly was displayed alongside the cake. This is the symbol of the Takedaryu horse archery school in Japan. They use the dragonfly to represent their "Samurai spirit".

It was an honor to have both Misa Tsuyoshi and Naoko Oshida at our event. We hope to have more presentations of the Japanese culture at the festival in the future. This year would not have been possible without the generosity of the Iowa Sister States organization, Laura Zaper of Des Moines and Mary Sula Linney, Iowa Central Community College of Fort Dodge. Our festival was spectacular this year because we were treated to such a unique cultural experience of skill, grace and sharing of traditions.