Buddhist marksman’s skill has lasted through age and WWII internment
By DENNIS WILKEN
TGI Staff Writer
HANAPEPE—A small crowd of
25 people witnessed an amazing display of archery last Saturday at the Hanapepe
They also saw an amazing display of longevity.
were demonstrated by a master kyudu archer, retired Buddhist Bishop Gyokuei
Matsuura, who proved he is definitely 89 years young.
Matsuura was invited
to display his skills by the Hanapepe Zenshu Temple’s Rev. Kosho Itagaki and
the Barking Sands Archery Club.
Matsuura approached his shooting exhibition
methodically, cracking his knuckles, loosening up his fingers and bowing to his
archery glove before putting it on.
Matsuura’s forearms, striated with
muscle and looking like the arms of a much younger man, barely quivered as he
pulled back the 22-pound bow that was almost as tall as he was.
He fired at
the small target about 25 to 30 yards away. All but one of his arrows hit the
target, and his third shot was a direct bullseye.
Afterward, through an
interpreter, Matsuura talked briefly about his shooting prowess.
he said the major difference now (from when he arrived in Hawai’i 64 years ago)
was his bow.
“Although they last for life,” Matsuura said, he has gone from
a 25-pound (pull) bow to a 22-pound bow as he’s gotten older.
much of a concession to being nearly 90, but Matsuura isn’t a man who seems to
have conceded much in his long life.
Although historians say it is unclear
who brought kyudu archery to Hawai’i, Rev. Gyokuei Matsuura arrived in 1936 and
a year later was demonstrating bojutsu (sticks martial arts) at an exhibition
Waimea Shingon Shu, on Kaua’i, opened a kyudojo on temple grounds
in the summer of 1940. The chief instructor was the same archer who put on last
Matsuura was reassigned by his church to the Big
Island in 1941, but all kyudu activities were soon suspended because of World
War II. The American military confiscated all the bows and arrows and a number
of instructors, including Matsuura, were interned.
Matsuura saw a lot of
the United States in this unpleasant fashion, being interned at Kilauea
Military Camp, then Sand Island, Oahu, then Angel Island in San Francisco,
Later during the war, Matsuura was relocated to other camps on the
mainland: Fort Sill, Okla., Camp Livingston, La. and Santa Fe, N.M.
the war ended, kyudu was revived and the American military returned the
The Hawaii Kyudu Kai formalized itself in 1947. There
are few practitioners left of kyudu in Hawai’i, although kyudu archers are
still revered in Japan.
Last year, Clifford Fujino, a veteran practitioner,
told the Hawai’i Herald that the sport was threatened.
“Our problem is we
have no teachers. Most are all dead, except for…Matsuura,” Fujino said in the
Last Saturday’s exhibition was sponsored by the Barking
Sands Archery Club.
Club Member Don Decker, who retired to Kaua’i from the
mainland eight years ago, said the group is composed of recreational
Before the exhibition by Matsuura, Decker said, “I’ve been
looking forward to this. I’ve heard so much about Japanese (kyudu) shooting,
but I’ve never seen it before.”
Decker said club members meet and shoot
indoors on the third Tuesday of every month.
Decker has been
target-shooting for 40 years.
“Many of the other members hunt, but I
don’t,” he said.
The club is looking for new members who have a love of
archery to join the “10 or so” currently shooting. Decker said dues are modest.
Additional information is available from Decker at 742-6743 or from Thomas
Batis at 335-4440.
Staff writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at
245-3681 (ext. 252).