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Falconry at Hama Rikyu Gardens in 2020

In 2020, I photographed falconry at Hama Rikyu Gardens!  If you didn’t know, Japan’s shoguns used to hunt ducks there with the birds.  Those times are gone, but every January, there is a display of the sport.  Falconers who keep the tradition alive show their skills over two days.  

falconer with falcon at Hama Rikyu Gardens

As always, there was an aikido display before the falconry, but this time I completely missed it.  Unfortunately, my bed was far too warm, and my old body resisted the call to wake up and get going.  So, by the time I arrived, a crowd of about 2000 people was already there.  Luckily, the weather was perfect, with the skies only slightly overcast. 

display of falconry at Hama Rikyu Gardens

The show started with the trainers, falcons placed firmly on arms, and walking the edge of the field.  Spectators got a good look and took photos as they passed.  After that, the display started.  The birds gave a good show of their hunting skills.


The highlight was a falcon showing incredible discipline, eyesight and hearing.  When signaled, it flew from the top of a ten-story building about five hundred meters from the park.  It carried out its task perfectly, hitting the simulated target.  Everyone was impressed!

falconer and falcon on building

After quick instructions, three people from the crowd volunteered to show their skills.  Unfortunately, one bird misunderstood a signal.  It flew off prematurely to strike one girl in the back of the head.  There was no damage, but I’m sure the girl got a shock!

falconer with bird at Hama Rikyu Gardens

For this event, I used the Fujifilm 55-200 mm lens.  It did a good job but was too short.  Falcons aren’t very big, so I needed a larger lens.  The next time I go, I’ll be sure to take the 100-400.

volunteer falconry at Hama Rikyu Gardens
falconry display at Hama Rikyu Gardens

Falconry at Hama Rikyu Gardens in 2020 was enjoyable.  You should see it if you ever visit Tokyo over the New Year’s period!  I can’t wait to see these birds in action again.  Please leave questions and comments below.

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  1. Pingback: Hamarikyu Gardens - where the Shoguns once hunted - Tokyo in Pics

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