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jarai


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A form of standing-target archery performed at the Japanese imperial court, possibly from as early as ad 483, though the earliest identified documentation of it dates from ad 647, when a unified Japanese state was in the making. Jarai was a ritual of status, deference, and fealty (Allen Guttmann and Lee Thompson, Japanese Sports: A History, 2001). It was a court ritual held in the middle of the first lunar month, in which twenty noblemen (including imperial princes) competed against twenty archers selected from among the palace guards. Officials of the state gathered in the presence of the emperor to demonstrate their allegiance, and nobles who did not attend the ceremony were punished. Members of the imperial family had targets 20 per cent larger than those of the other contestants. Rank, rather than performance, usually determined the prizes; and after the middle of the 9th century, when the emperor began not to attend the ceremony, it lost its ceremonial and ritualistic significance.

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