Taka-gari (falconry) is a kind of hunting which uses a falcon. Goshawk, or sparrow hawk of Accipitridae, or falcon of Falconidae are trained to capture small animals such as birds and rabbit, which are changed to feed. There is a vulgar superstition that falcons bring preyto its owner. A person who practices falconry is called Takajo astringer. In ancient words it is also called Togari, falconry, and Takano. It is thought to originate from Central Asia or the Mongolian plateau, but there is no established theory on its birthplace and date. Before modern times, original Taka-gari cultures flowered all over Eurasia and North Africa from Japan in the east to Ireland and Morocco in the west, and Mongolia and Scandinavia in the north and India in the south. Today, while it has nearly disappeared in India and Iran where it was once popular, it is still practiced in the Americas and South Africa as well.
In Japan, hunting by rulers implied a symbolic sense of authority and some clay figures in Kofun Period display a falcon on their arms. In the Chronicles of Japan, there is a description explaining that Taka-gari was practiced in the era of Emperor Nintoku (Nintoku 43) and Takakai-be who trained falcons, was appointed. In ancient times areas where falconry was practiced was limited as Kinya (hunting grounds for the Emperor where the public was banned from hunting), and hoyoshi (by Taiho Code) and Shuyoshi (by Yoro-rei Act) who conducted Taka-gari for Emperor were appointed. Documents related to hoyoshi remain at Shoso-in Treasure Repository and wood strips related to Taka-gari were excavated from the site of Nagayao's residence. In Heian Period Shuyoshi was abolished and Kurodo-dokoro government organization was in charge of Taka-gari. OTOMO no Yakamochi is known as a devotee during the Nara Period.
In the early Heian Period, Emperor Kanmu, Emperor Saga, Emperor Koko, Emperor Uda, Emperor Daigo, and their descendants favored Taka-gari. Emperor Saga wrote Chinese-style poems on Taka-gari and wrote 'Shinshu-yokyo' edited as a book of techniques for falconry (818). It is the second oldest among existing books on falconry technique.. After the mid-Heian Period, Emperor Ichijo and Emperor Shirakawa favored Taka-gari, but it was mainly practiced by aristocrats rather than Emperors. SAKANOUE no Tamuramaro, ARIWARA no Yukihira, and ARIWARA no Narihira, were known as past masters ofTaka-gari as well.
Taka-gari was also the subject of literature such as The Tale of Ise, The Tale of Genji, and Konjaku Monogatari (Tales of Times Now Past), in which there are some episodes related to Taka-gari. In the world of Waka/Yamatouta Japanese poems, Taka-gari has been a subject divided into 'Otakagari' and 'Kotakagari' until medieval times. Otakagari' is winter Kago (words and expressions for Waka) and 'Kotakagari' is autumn Kago.
In medieval times, Taka-gari started to be practiced among warriors and we can see how it was done in the Kamakura Period from descriptions on the Ippenshonin-eden picture scroll, Rokudo-e (painting of the six realms) of Shoju-raigo-ji Temple, Azuma-kagami (history book) and Soga-monogatari military epic. The atmosphere of Taka-gari in the Muromachi Period can be seen in each byobu folding screen with paintings both inside and outside the Kyo capital. In Azuchi-Momoyama Period, Nobunaga ODA is known as a devotee of falconry. In "Nobunaga-koki (biography of Nobunaga ODA)" there is a description of him practicing Taka-gari in Higashiyama (Kyoto Prefecture) and that warlords from various provinces competed to present falcons to Nobunaga. In addition, Soteki ASAKURA succeeded in the captive breeding of goshawk, which is the oldest record in the world as far as known at present. Taka-gari by court noble and its attendants had been also performed until it was forbidden by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, and Jimyoin family and Saionji family of noble and Shimotsuke family of Jige (officer not allowed to enter the Imperial palace) had made Taka-gari their family business and wrote a technique book ('book of falconry') on Waka style or prose style. Sakihisa KONOE communicated with Nobunaga ODA as an authority of Taka-gari and gave a practical guide, 'Ryuzan-ko Taka-hyakushu' to Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and Ieyasu TOKUGAWA as well. On the other hand, in the warrior class Taka-gari developed in combination with a ceremony to sacrifice a hawk in Suwa Taisha and Futarasan-jinja Shrines, and that led to the schools of falconry technique such as the Nezu school, the Ogasawara school, and Utsunomiya school, and moreover, the Yashiro school, the Arai school, and Yoshida school, split from descendant of Nobunao NEZU.
Taka-gari spread among busho (Japanese military commanders) in the Sengoku Period, among whom especially Ieyasu TOKUGAWA was famous as a devotee of Taka-gari. Ieyasu appointed Takajo-gumi, astringers, that is, technicians of Taka-gari, and assigned them as his aides. Kanemon IMBE had served Ieyasu as a head of Takajo-gumi, astringers, even after Ieyasu retired as Shogun. On the Ieyasu's portraits for prayer, which are known as Toshogu-Mikage (image of Toshogu, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA), a white hawk is often drawn. In the Edo Period successive Tokugawa Shogun favored Taka-gari. Especially, the third Shogun, Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, favored it very much and practiced Taka-gari hundreds times during his reign as Shogun. Iemitsu is known to have made a place for falconry for the exclusive use of Shogun, appointed Torimi (officer for falconry) and built 'Takabo (鷹坊)' to feed falcons at Ninomaru (the outer citadel) of Edo Castle. The atmosphere of Taka-gari in the era of Iemitsu can be seen in the Edo-zu Byobu (folding screen with Edo-zu paintings). The fifth Shogun, Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA, abolished Taka-gari, step-by-step, by 'Shorui-Awaremi-no-rei,' ordinances for animal protection, but it was revived in the era of the eighth Shogun, Yoshimune TOKUGAWA. Yoshimune TOKUGAWA collected and researched ancient and modern books on falconry and wrote books about hunting crane by himself. Successive books on falconry during the Edo Shogunate are in the possession of the Naikaku-bunko book stock, etc. Among daimyo (Japanese territorial lords) Shigemura DATE, Shigehide SHIMAZU, and Naritoki MATSUDAIRA, are famous as devotees of Taka-gari and especially the books which Naritoki MATSUDAIRA collected for research are housed in Tokyo National Museum, Shimane prefectural library, etc.
After Meiji Restoration, Taka-gari was liberalized from the privilege of daimyo and came under control of a licensing system for nine years by 'Shuryo-kisoku (game law)' in 1892 and 'Shuryo-ho (Game Act)' in 1895, and after a revision of 'Shuryo-ho' 1901, Taka-gari has been liberalized except for the kinds and numbers of birds for hunting and the time and place for it. In accordance with the will of Emperor Meiji, Takajo was employed and cultivated under the Shikibu-shoku (Imperial Household Ministry) but the actual hunting by the Imperial Household Agency was interrupted after the World War II. The technique of Takajo of the Shogunate and Imperial Household Ministry was tranferred to private volunteers by Takajo such as Sentaro MURAKOSHI (c.1857-1937) and Kaoru HANAMI (1910-2002), who retired from the Imperial Household Ministry or Imperial Household Agency, so those who practice Taka-gari at present (except for Hidetoshi MATSUBARA) succeed either technique whether they identify with a specific school or not.
As an early private association, the Nihon Hoyo Club (Japan falconry Club), promoted by Godo NAKANISHI was established in 1936, but it was interrupted. Descendants of Yutoku NIWA (丹羽有得) (1901-1993) who learned from Sentaro MURAKOSHI, established associations such as Nihon Takagari-bunka Hozonkai (Japan falconry preservation society), study group of Kakunojo MORI and Yoshida school Takagari Association, while descendants of Kaoru HANAMI established associations such as the Nihon Hoyo Kyokai (Japan falconry association) and the SUWA Falconry Preservation Society. Nihon Takagari Club (Japan falconry club), which Soichiro OHARA established bringing Yutoku NIWA, seems to have been reorganized and renamed after his death in early life, changing its purpose from preservation, publication, and diffusion of Taka-gari tradition. At present, a facility named The Japan Falconiformes Center located at the same place is not open to the public and the actual conditions of its organization, activity, and finance are not known, but it is said to have 22 million annual budget and its envelop mentions that its head office is located in the General Affairs Department of Chubu Electric Power Company.
After Meiji Period (Tohoku)
However, after Meiji Period in the Tohoku Region, Taka-gari in the snowcapped mountains using mountain hawk-eagle had spread among the warrior class, rich farmer, and Matagi hunter groups, at an early stage.
Feeding of mountain hawk-eagle itself has been seen since Kamakura Period (Kokon-Chomonju (Collection of Folk-Literature)), and in the book on falconry in medieval times there is a description about the 'Kumataka (Mountain hawk-eagle).'
The origin of 'hawker' in the Tohoku Region is not clear, although some people guess that it started before the Meiji Period, and it seems that Taka-gari practiced by warriors was indigenized because both have common or similar equipment and names. A past master, Tsunekichi MIURA (三浦恒吉) (1863-1938), who was descended from Densuke (伝助) of Innai, also communicated with Jinsuke SASAKI of the Takajo family, the domain of the former Shinjo. The 'hawker' in the Tohoku Region developed as Takajo of a regular vocation, but declined rapidly because of the change in the economy after the World War II, so only Hidetoshi MATSUBARA, who learned from Asaji KUTSUZAWA (1896-1983) for a year, remains as a present day hawker.