Birds of Prey Ring in the New Year

January 11, 2008 at 10:08 am Leave a comment

On January 2nd and 3rd in Minato-ku, Tokyo, as part of an annual New Year’s tradition called Hoyojutsu Jitsuen, there was a cultural demonstration of falconry, in which beautiful, majestic goshawks show how they catch prey.


In this video (from November), large birds swoop low to the ground from trainer to trainer. Check out the windmill action as one of the trainers (or falconers) flings a tempting treat sky high for the hawk to catch. The birds move so fast that for a brief, horrifying moment, I thought the guy was throwing the hawk into the air after violently swinging it in a circle.

A leisure sport with military roots, Japanese falconry (takagari) dates back to the 6th century, where it was viewed as a status symbol and reserved for emperors and other nobility. Besides being dangerous, it was also extremely expensive, since it’s a pretty pointless exercise unless you have a lot of land! Takagari reached its peak popularity in the Edo period (1603-1868), but even today there are still falconry schools that claim to teach traditional methods.

Sarah S.

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January 2008


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