Friday, October 12, 2018

Yabusame Crafting

The Yabusame competition is a week away (eeek!) and I've got a few craft projects to put together before it gets here:

1: Helmet cover

2: Decorate my arrows

3: Make a thumb chard, or two

I finished number two today, decorating the arrows.  I've been practicing with a set of arrows that my friend Angie loaned me, but during a yumi (bow) lesson a few days ago, I learned that they are too short for me.  So, I took the plunge and bought my very own set of three arrows!

They come with a plain wooden tip and most everyone decorates them, sometimes they are painted, but many of the ones I've seen are covered in washi paper. 

I hadn't ever done anything like this, but figured I'd give it a go.  Thinking it'd be fun to document it, I snapped a few pictures along the way.

Here's the plain wooden tip, they put a label with my name on each of the arrows:

I was told I should reinforce the tip with some tape, so I started off by doing that. 

Here's the pattern I made, using printer paper:

My idea was to wrap the paper around the tip and then glue down the tabs.  (Side note, see the owie on my thumb?  Hence my desire for thumb guards.  I realized just recently that it appears I'm giving myself "paper cuts" with the fletchings, particularly these new ones which are still crisp and sharp.)

I think it will work!

Here's the real paper, some pretty washi paper I've had for a while.  I wanted something to match my riding kimono (which I received yesterday and: It. Is. GORGEOUS - more on it in a future post).  The top of it is my favorite rich blue color, which oddly I don't have in my paper stash...  but the bottom is shades of white, pink and purple, so I went that route:

The "spine" and first side glued down:

Time to cut the tabs on the other side.  I was going to cut all of the tabs before putting them on, but then decided it'd be easier to cut them where I wanted them on the actual tip.

All glued down!

Here are all three of them.  My paper wasn't quite long enough to cover the whole tip.

So I went back and added some strips around the top.  I also put a strip of pretty washi tape around the start of the shaft. 

I think they are ready to go! 

As for the thumb guard, I think I might actually try and wear my cycling, fingerless, gloves.  My last lesson, at the club, is tomorrow, I'm going to be experimenting with a lot of new stuff: arrows and gloves.  If they don't work I'm going to make a leather or synthetic leather cover for one or both of my thumbs.

The helmet cover comes next!  I was given the extra fabric from the two kimonos that were combined into one for my riding kimono, so can make the cover to match.  I'm far from a seamstress; I think the most sewing I've done has been on model horse blankets.  Ha!  But I'm sure I'll figure something out. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Yabusame Practice

Wait, what, I'm doing a blog post??  Yes, yes...  I've been really neglecting my blog (and vlog).  I could trot out some excuses: I've been busy, I've been depressed, I've just gotten out of the habit of blogging - that last is the most to blame at this point - and discuss them, but instead I'm going to forge ahead.  Onward and upward!

I've mentioned Yabusame (traditional Japanese horseback archery) on here a few times, including the one time I got to take a lesson at the horse club closest to where we live.  During that lesson, I rode a horse around a bit and tried to practice the Yabusame riding position.  I'd also had a brief bow lesson on the ground.

The closest I'd come to doing Yabusame "for real" was when I paid for a Yabusame experience at one of the competitions: wearing a traditional outfit, shooting the (looong) bow from the ground, and then sitting on a horse in front of a target to take the three shots.

I knew before we'd even completed our move to Japan that I'd like to learn the horseback archery, if I could.  I had no idea what to expect, where I might find it happening and if it would even be possible to be involved.  As it turns out: about 45 minutes away and not only possible, but encouraged!

For a couple of years I've put off getting serious about it - taking lessons, entering competitions - because of the cost.  However, our time here is winding down, which makes me very sad.  It's basically now or, most likely, never.

So, I've joined the riding club, started taking lessons, and...  I'm officially signed up to enter the Fall competition in just under a month!

I've taken about 6 lessons now I think, spread out over the past 4 months or so.  This past Monday I had one and Jeff was able to come along to take pictures and video!

Without further rambling, here are some pictures:

We don't know which horse we are riding until we get there.  My ride for the day was Toby, a sweet palomino gelding.

We'd been paired up in one lesson before.  Other horses I've ridden for lessons have been Suzaku and her sister, Opal.

In the barn, getting cleaned up.  His mane is SO thick.

Chatting with Angie, she would be riding Opal.  Angie and I had met 2-1/2 years ago at an outreach event the club was having.  She is also from the U.S. and is here teaching English in some of the local schools.

Time to saddle up.  Most of the saddles used for Yabusame are Western.  I've seen one Australian stock saddle and a couple of traditional Japanese saddles at the big competitions.

Bridle time.  Toby's bridle had some pretty turquoise accents on it.

After getting our horses ready, all of the lesson participants mount up and ride to the track, down a dirt road a little ways behind the barns, and past the pastures.  It's a pretty ride.

Once we get to the track, we do several warm up passes, the first at a walk.  I think here I was admiring some clouds in the sky.

"I'm on a horse!"  Though it's happily become more common than once or twice a YEAR over here, it's still wonderful, every time.

That picture also gives a glimpse of close to the Yabusame riding position.  The stirrups are actually tied forward.  You then lean forward, stick your butt out, arch your back, chest up....  The idea is you are supposed to take the motion of the horse with your legs while your upper body doesn't move.  I'm not there yet!  Some of the people who are really good appear to be floating above their horse.  The top of their head won't move, while their horse races underneath them.

After a pass down at back at the walk, we trot, then canter.  Then we get our bows and the horses know that it's go time.  They will run faster as soon as we have a bow.  I've also noticed that some will run even faster when we hit a target.  They know their job.

This was the first day I shot all three arrows on most of my runs.  So far I'd been shooting only one or two, but I was determined to speed it up a bit and get all three out.

Here I've launched the first arrow and am pulling out the second.

Firing that second arrow.  I have a bad habit of holding the bow at an angle - it's supposed to be straight up and down.  It's a habit from the Plains Indian style archery that I had learned first.

I love this picture, this is the lesson group walking back after one of the runs.  Along the walk back, the instructor hands us our arrows and gives up feedback, tips to work on, or just says "good" with a smile.  Angie is in the lead, then a little girl who is very good - better than all of us I'd say - me, and a woman who I think may have been fairly new?

Coming down the track for another round, trying to remember the instructor's words "up, push, pull".  The process of putting an arrow to the bow, drawing, and firing is actually a very precise 10 step process.  There is a lot to remember!

First arrow up...

Push, pull, fire!

Last arrow, push, pull...

Another "gangsta" sideways bow shot.  I really need to work on that...

Did I make it?  I made a few in the target that day.  The instructor is at the end of the track.

More shooting:

One of the walks back, probably deep in thought.  I do a review of my own on the walk back thinking, thinking, thinking.  Sometimes I practice some of the steps as we return to the start.

The last picture is from far away, but I thought it was a neat shot.  Toby launching into stride as I prepare for "up, push, pull".  The horses know that once we have a bow and arrows, their job is to run down the track.

To wrap up, here are a couple of videos that Jeff took!

This last video was my best ever run - so far.  I fired all three arrows, making it into the target with the first and third!!  The instructor and I both were laughing at the end, because Toby slowed down on his own for the end of the run and I took the shot anyway, at a trot, and made it in! 

The competition - which is the World Yabusame Championship (no pressure) - is October 20-21.  I'm planning to do as much practice as I can before then, including weekly lessons, at least.  Another friend loaned me one of her bows, since she won't be competing this time due to an injury, and Angie loaned me some arrows.  So I'll be doing some bow practice in the backyard.

Oh!  And I'm having a traditional riding kimono made.  I'm very excited about that! 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Motivation Monday - Can Do It

I've been a really bad blogger (and vlogger) for a little while now.   Trying to get things back on track, starting with a Motivation Monday post!  As always, I hope everyone has a great week and has the chance to do things that make them happy!  

Friday, May 25, 2018

At Dawn, We Ride!

When I was a teenager, I was a fairly avid cyclist.  I thought nothing of riding 50 miles in a day (and often did).  I spent a fair bit of time hanging out and chatting with a guy in the neighborhood who was pretty hardcore, he regularly did things like Ride the Rockies and Pedal the Peaks.  I had aspirations of doing such things - American Flyer was one of my favorite movies, in addition to the usual roster of horse films.  I pretty much rode the wheels off of every cheap WalMart bike that I got my hands on.

I still remember the first time I was in a real bike shop and saw a Cannondale with the STI shifters.  Basically it's a system that makes your brakes and shifters the same lever.  Pull back to brake, push in to shift.  It seemed like magic, but with an $800 price tag, such a steed was out of my budget as a kid.

Fast forward to last summer.  As it turned out, the BX (on base department store) had a wide range of Cannondale bikes.  Our friends John and Holly bought two new bikes and we went to check out the selection.  I found they had several Cannondale road bikes..  with STI shifters.  :-O 

My bicycle at the time was a rusty old WalMart mountain bike that wouldn't shift anymore - even after Jeff worked on it and was just pretty much worn out.

Jeff bought me a Cannondale...  with STI shifters.

I rode the heck out of it for three days, planning to launch back into cycling as a way to get back in shape.  It was going to be awesome!

Then, I did a number on myself, a Grade 3 ankle sprain.  No more cycling for me, not for a while. 

My beautiful NEW Cannondale sat parked in the living room, while I sat on the couch, elevating and icing my ankle and feeling sorry for myself.

I got back into riding a bit before winter set in and then the snow sidelined us again.

This spring, I've done a handful of rides.  I'm still far from considering myself a "cyclist" again.

Well...  tomorrow is the "Tour de Ogawara", an annual group ride that circles Lake Ogawara, just north of here.  It's a 53km (roughly 30 mile) loop.  As a teen, during my cycling days, it would have been cake.  Now, I'm not so sure. 

Nevertheless, Jeff and I are both signed up and ready (as we can be) to go.  The bike rack is on the car, our tires are topped off, our steeds are waiting in the hallway...

Jeff had bought a new Cannondale too, but he opted for the full mountain bike version.  I call it the Clydesdale.  He's ridden much less than I have and says he'll definitely be earning the miles on his big-tired beast tomorrow.

My bike is definitely a Thoroughbred or Akhal-Teke... or gazelle.  She flies.  So I've got that going for me. 

Another challenge for us will be the 0800 show time/0900 start time.  Jeff's been on swing shift for a while - generally gets home between 0200-0300 and then we sleep until 0900-1100.  I've been keeping to the same schedule - it makes things easier around here, but makes it very hard to get up in the early mornings!  We are hoping he'll be home a bit early tonight and hoping we can get some sleep before we stagger to the start tomorrow.

A few days ago, he randomly looked at me and asked, "Are we going to die on Saturday?"

To which I replied,



Thursday, May 17, 2018

Epic Struggle to Import Horses

(model horses, that is)

I'll put the TL;DR (too long; didn't read) right up front for anyone who doesn't feel like wading in:

I've been struggling, since February, to get several Breyer horses sent to me - from Breyer - and as of today they are FINALLY all here, after several e-mails, months of waiting and wondering, and about $80 total in postage, re-shipper fees, and more postage.


Full story:

Late last year I ordered several Stablemates direct from Breyer, during an end of the year clearance sale they were having.  Specifically, Valegro and American Pharoah for $2 each - I bought 5 each as bodies, OF show ponies, whatever.  It was also a bit of a shipping test.  I knew that Breyer appears to only use UPS Ground for shipping, so I knew they would take a while to get here (if they would?).  They did, it took about 6 weeks.  No biggie for the "slow boat" way of coming over (or "lashed to a sea turtle" as I like to say).

At the same time, I joined the Collector's Club for the first time and also the Stablemate Club.

February rolled around and I ordered the first horse in the SM Club, Kohana, as soon as he became available - yay!

End of March, I saw they had a 20% off sale on Classic scale models.  I really wanted Mason, the new Saddlebred mold.  So I ordered two: one for OF, one to customize.

Then came the email that Aiden, the second SM Club horse was available, in early April.  I started to wonder, where was Kohana?

I went back through my emails and checked his tracking number.

He'd been returned to sender, about a week after I bought him, over a month ago at that point.


I checked the tracking number on the Masons.

They had been returned too and were en route back to Breyer at that time.

I filled out a help request on the Breyer website, laying out what had happened so far and saying I was hesitant to buy Aiden, since I hadn't received the others yet.

They said that UPS had not given a reason for the returns.  Then they confirmed my address and told me they would resend everything.  However, Mason was out of stock and would be back in stock the 16th or 17th of April.  That's when they would resend.

So I went ahead and ordered Aiden, with a regular run SM too.

I received a tracking number for Aiden and friend.

They were returned to sender.

No word, shipment notification or anything, on what was supposed to be resent.

Then it was announced that Starlet was available, a beautiful appaloosa on the Croi Connemara mold.

Again, I e-mailed Breyer.  Again, I laid out that I hadn't received anything since the end of the year box - which apparently was the anomaly, the only one to make it over here.  Again, I said there was something I'd like to purchase, but couldn't, because it appeared the only way I was going to be able to receive my orders was to use a re-shipper - which will triple the cost of postage.  (postage x2, plus a service fee, which is as much or more than the actual postage).

I was told to go ahead and order Starlet and they would refund the shipping cost for her.

Suddenly, in the middle of all of this, a Breyer box arrived at the post office.  Postmarked April 20th, just about 10 days before - record time!  (??)

Inside?  Two Masons.

I set up an account with the re-shipper, and - skeptically - ordered Starlet.  I told the person I'd been speaking with at Breyer that the two Masons had arrived.  Then I asked if everything else (Starlet, 2 SM Club horses, regular SM) could be sent in one box, to save on postage and fees.  They told me that they'd spoken to the warehouse and everything would be sent in one box.

(postage was refunded for Starlet)

Yay!  The end was in sight....?

Yeah, about that...

I received notifications from the re-shipper that they had a box for me.  Then that it was on the way.  It got here and I went to the post office, full of excitement - they're here!


I was handed a single horse box - the white ones with blue horses running design.  I'd seen them before, with special models in them.  My thoughts at the post office: "So, this is Starlet, where are the rest?  Maybe they are tucked in there with her?  Must be."

I was still hopeful so when I got home, so much so that I set up to film and did an unboxing video.  Except, it WAS only Starlet in there.

(side note: she is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous!!)

Today, I got an alert that there was a package waiting at the base post office.  I checked the tracking and see that it came from the re-shipper.  I asked Jeff if he was expecting anything?  (we both have accounts there now).  He didn't think so.

At the counter I was handed..  another Breyer box.  The same size one that the two Masons came in.

The whole drive home I kept thinking, what if I just got two more Masons?  Well, I'll pay for them and have more to paint, that's fine I guess, but that means I'll be paying for a THIRD delivery through the reshipper??

Is this ever going to end?

(haha #firstworldproblems, I know...)

Happily, I was wrong in thinking it was MOAR Masons.  It was:

Kohana, Aiden, and their regular run SM friend.

So now, months after the first Club release, I finally have the first two.

(another side note: the tiny boxes for the SM Club horses are AWWW-dorable!!)

Confusion though: I thought I'd only been charged once from the re-shipper.  Nope, they did get me twice - so that's $43 total shipping (and fees) for 1 Trad and 3 SMs, through the re-shipper, because they were in two boxes, sent the same day.

While not happy at what all of this ended up costing me (in money and frustration), I am glad the whole ordeal is finally over.  Sadly, I think I'm done ordering through Breyer, except for the rest of the SM Club, and they will each now cost me $30 in shipping and fees.  At least until we are back Stateside I suppose.

Of course, I did see that Breyer is having a free shipping sale for May - which I couldn't take advantage of with an APO address, but now I can...  That might be the only way I can justify ordering from them.  Sadly, the free shipping sales don't seem to apply to any of the Club horses when there is an overlap.

Thus ends the Epic saga of my attempts (and eventual success) in importing six plastic horses, direct from Breyer, to a U.S. military base with an APO address in Japan.

Friday, April 27, 2018

I Made Something

Behold eeeet!

Followers of my vlog will know that I was given a model of Black Caviar while on our Australia trip (I don't think I've blogged about her yet...) and that I've been wanting to make a set of portrait tack for her for National Model Tack Month (April).

Tonight I finished assembling her bridle.  That just leaves the saddle.  I've got a couple of days left, should be fine!  Right...?

If I were a racehorse, my style would totally be that of a closer - cruising along in the early going, maybe even trailing the field, until that final turn.  It's about time to start the stretch drive!  I suppose I just did.

For now though, my supervisor seems to be making it clear that it is bedtime. 

Tomorrow Jeff and I are planning to take a bit of a road trip over to Hirosaki for their 100th Anniversary Sakura Festival.  I'm really looking forward to it and hoping the sakura are still blooming there.

For the rest of the weekend, I have a huge, complicated laser order to finish up...  and a racing saddle to build.  ;-)

Happy Friday/weekend, everyone!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Super Informal Catchup Vlog

Yeah, I think all of my vlogs are "informal" - haha!  Anyhow, I decided to finally stop prepping stuff and do a nighttime video.  I'm hoping to do another one (in the daytime) in the next few days.

Also, this weekend is the Sakura (cherry blossom) Yabusame (traditional Japanese horseback archery) competition!  I will be taking a ton of video and pictures as usual and am hoping to do an actual vlog from there - if I can remember...  This whole video thing is still really new to me!

Without further ado, here's the latest video!  (the thumbnail is funny to me:  Look at Van Gogh!  Look at him!!)

I hope everyone is having a good start to the week!  :)