Kyudu archery master stays on target

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

Zenshu Temple.

They also saw an amazing display of longevity.

Both

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.

Smiling,

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.

That’s not

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

on Oahu.

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

Saturday’s demonstration.

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,

Calif.

Later during the war, Matsuura was relocated to other camps on the

mainland: Fort Sill, Okla., Camp Livingston, La. and Santa Fe, N.M.

When

the war ended, kyudu was revived and the American military returned the

archers’ equipment.

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

Herald article.

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

shooters.

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).

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