Azusa Yumi

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An Azusa Yumi (梓弓?) is a sacred bow in Japan, as well as a Japanese (musical) bow made from the wood of the catalpa tree (azusa, 梓). Playing an azusayumi forms part of some Shinto rituals. In Japanese poetry, the word azusayumi functions as a makurakotoba ("pillow word").

The story is told in the sacred history of Japan that a golden bird perched on the bow of Jimmu Tenno, the great grandson of Amaterasu Omi-Kami, the Sun Goddess of Japan, and the first human ruler of Japan. This was seen as an extremely good omen for Japan. Jimmu Tenno's bow developed the power to dispel evil by the mere plucking of its string. His bow was made of azusa (Catalpawood).

Since that time, 59 Azusa-Yumi (29 vermilion and 30 black - vermilion signifying male energy and black female energy) have been enshrined at the Ise Grand Shrine, Japan's most important Shinto shrine and the main residence of Amaterasu Omi-Kami. They serve to protect and purify the sacred inner chamber of the Shrine. These bows that are enshrined at Ise become Goshimpo-yumi (Great Treasures of the Gods). Every twenty years the inner chamber of the Shrine is renewed and new offerings are made — including the Goshimpo-yumi.


It is also a long standing tradition for the great lords and nobility to have a set of these sacred bows, either originals or replicas, in their homes (one vermilion; one black) and these are referred to as Gokaho-yumi or "Great Family Treasures". Azusa-Yumi are hand-carved from Catalpawood, or cherry and coated with urushi (Japanese lacquer) and fitted with gold, silk cords and brocade.