Birds of Prey Ring in the New Year

January 11, 2008 at 10:08 am

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.

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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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