Archers by Mortimer Menpes. 1901. Watercolor. Source: Japan: A Record in Colour, facing p. 68. Like other martial arts, the traditional (and picturesque) practice of archery suffered a decline when Japan opened up to the west; as a sport, too, it seems to have lost popularity for a while because of the extraordinarily high records set in competitions (see Guttman 55). But it began to gain ground again in the last years of the nineteenth century. This is not an activity that is mentioned in the book, except when Menpes notes that the Japanese long ago "exchanged the bow and arrow for the sword" (94-95): the text is not a commentary on the paintings, any more than the paintings illustrate the text in any direct way. But Menpes must have seen a display, and his depiction of it serves as another example of the "balance" that is a great feature of the sport, and that fascinated the artist as well — not only in stance, figure, and line, but in colour tone too. — Jacqueline Banerjee

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Guttmann, Allen, and Lee Thompson. Japanese Sports: A History. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001.

Menpes, Dorothy. Japan: A Record in Colour. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1901. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of California Libraries. Web. 25 June 2019.

Created 25 June 2019