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.

As always, there was an aikido display before the falconry, but 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.

The show started with the trainers, falcons placed firmly on arms, 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 by hitting the simulated target. Everyone was impressed!

And three lucky people from the crowd participated in the display. Picked from the audience, they were given quick instructions. After donning the gauntlets, they each had to receive a bird, then send it to the next person. They looked thrilled to join the fun.

It wasn’t without incident, though. One bird misunderstood a signal. It flew off prematurely to strike a girl in the back of the head. There was no damage, but I’m sure she got a shock!

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

Falconry at Hama Rikyu Gardens in 2020 was enjoyable. You should see it if you visit Tokyo over the New Year’s period! Then you can see these wonderful birds. Please put it on your Japan travel itinerary. And the park itself is beautiful. It is worth a visit.

Falconry at Hama Rikyu Gardens in 2020

  • Camera body: Fujifilm X-T2
  • Lenses: Fujifilm XF 55-200 mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

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