Dakyu, also known as Uchimari (Japanese polo) is an athletic sport or a game similar to polo, once played in Japan. It was introduced from ancient China.
Players on horseback are divided into two teams, and strive to be the first to get balls on the field into their own team goals by using Giccho (a long-wood stick).
Dakyu came from China; however, it is uncertain when it was introduced. According to "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) Vol. 6, royal princes and their retainers gathered to play Dakyu at Kasugano in the New Year 727.
"Saikyuki" (record of court practices and usage, written by MINAMOTO no Takaaki in Chinese style) describes that the Emperor went to Butoku-den (an exercise hall) to watch a game of Dakyu on June 3, 727. According to it, 40 players (15 players of officials, each from the Left and the Right Divisions of Inner Palace Guards, and 10 players of officials from the Middle Palace Guards) play two matches of Dakyu; they lead horses, which belong to the Left and the Right Divisions of Bureau of Horses, from the back of both camps of the Left and the Right Divisions of Inner Palace Guards to the east side of the goals, and stand in a row. Ryuei (柳営) piled with 29 balls provided by Nishoryo (Bureau of Skilled Artisans) is put on the table. After players bow to greet the lord, they get down to the playing ground, and mount on horseback; when the minister bowls the ball, both teams start to compete in hitting the ball. After a flag is waved to show the winner, the music is played; this is the end of the game. The goal measures 45.45m from north to south with two poles about 6m long set up.
It nearly died out; the plan for reviving Dakyu emerged during the Kyoho era because of the need for martial training in the Edo period; however, it was left undone. It was rare that a game of Dakyu was played at Takadanobaba in Edo in April 1840.
In the game during the Edo period, the red and white colored signs are erected at the goals; 10 riders are drawn up side by side inside the goal; 5 riders each are located on the right and left sides. At the rear left and right of riders, officials are stationed, who strike a bell and a drum to proclaim the point made in the game; they attend to incoming and outgoing of the balls to determine the outcome of the game working with Marimetsuke and Maribugyo (referees). The red and white flags called Shoshinki are lined on the right and left sides of the goal; the flag is raised every time a ball enters the goal, and also used when a song of victory is played after all balls are pitched into the goal. At the other end of the playing ground, dozens of balls are piled up on either side, one red, the other white; the red and the white flags hung at two masts to mark them. At the center of the playing ground, one Maribugyo (a referee) is stationed by holding a fan. When the time comes, an official wearing Tsugi kamishimo (a ceremonial dress of the warrior class) appears from Umaba dono (a palace in the middle of a horse-riding ground) to tell Maribugyo the order of the lord to start a game of Dakyu. Maribugyo unfolds a rising-sun fan facing toward the goal and raises it high above his head as a sign. Following the sign, riders, who previously stand in readiness within the goal, hold Giccho horizontally with the right reins; both riders wear a horse-riding Hakama (loose-legged pleated trousers for formal wear), Ayaigasa (a rush hat), the red and the whiteTasuki (a band of cloth used for holding kimono) made of silk crape, and the same Kasajirushi (helmet badges) at their belts. Riders of both teams enter the playing ground in a row, draw up on the left and the right, facing each other, and make a stop one by one. When Marimetsuke, a referee at the goal, raises a flag as a sign, each rider puts the stick down; when Marimetsuke flings up the flag, each rider moves forward at a trot to scoop his ball, and throw it into the goal as quickly as possible. The player who has scored first rushes into the goal following his ball; at the moment of his attempt, he shouts and waves his team's flag. This is what is called, Hatsuiri no tegara (a success in the first scoring). If the ball enters the goal from out of the boundary, it can be thrown over again. Sometimes the balls enter the goal disorderly like red balls go into the white side, or white balls into the red side; riders hover around the goal to block or hinder enemy's attacks. Both sides are prohibited from touching the enemy's balls until the first scoring is made; after either side has made the first scoring, its players can scoop the enemy's balls to throw back. After both sides have made the first scoring, both players can throw back enemy's balls and strive for putting their own balls into the goal. After the required number of balls have been thrown into the goal, the bell or the drum declares the winner, and the flag of the winner's side is raised to determine the outcome of the match. Seeing this, all the riders of the winner's side ride off from their own goal by raising the sticks overhead, and shouting in triumph. The defeated team withdraws from the goal; after the shout of victory, and Maribugyo raises the fan as a sign, its players lead their horses to the starting position. During that time, priests pick up the balls, put them into bowls, and arrange them as they were; then, the second match starts.
The riders take the first position in a row by turns; in the second match, the rider who has previously taken the first position goes to the end of the row, and the second rider takes the first position instead; in the third match, the third rider; in the fourth match, the fourth rider; the outcome of the whole game is decided in the fourth match. The lord calls the winners to him, and customarily offers them a stipend as a reward.
The ball, whose core is once made of hair surrounded by leather or cloth, is round or oval-shaped (mathematically), about 24.24cm in circumference.
The stick called Giccho is made of Shinotake (a small bamboo), which is cut to be the length equal to the height of the horse; a big bamboo, which is split into strips and bent over so as to form a J-shape, is bound to the outer end of the stick where the thin lace net is loosely stretched.