Yugake (a glove on the right hand) (ゆがけ)

Yugake, also referred as Kake, Sho is a deerskin glove-like gear for drawing Japanese bow used in Japanese kyudo (Japanese art of archery) or the art of Japanese archery. It is also written "弓懸け." In principle, they grip the bow with the left hand and wear a yugake on the right hand and draw a bow by putting the string on the base of the right hand thumb, at this moment the yugake protects the thumb from the string.


Yugake is the gear which uniquely developed with Japanese way of shooting that had applied the way of setting of 'Menggu' (Mongol) style (right figure. 3) where a bow was drawn with a thumb since Japanese bow appeared and improved repeatedly with the changes of schools in successive periods, shajutsu (technique to shoot a bow) or yumiire(or kyusha, ceremonial shooting) and have become a present form. The yugake which is used today is different from the one used by samurais in Japan in the basic structure, and in general, the one which is called mitsugake (three-fingered shooting glove) or yotsugake (four-fingered shooting glove), the thumb (boshi, a part of a yugake glove covering a thumb) and the wrist (hikae) are reinforced are used.

To wear a yugake is called "yugake wo sasu" (insert a yugake). In principle, as basic manners, "sitting straight when we put a yugake on or off," or "always take a yugake off when we do anything except for kyusha." When wearing a yugake, they put on something like an underclothing, called 'shitagake' (cotton underglove), which is made from a thin material such as cotton and so on and the purpose of shitagake is to absorb a hand sweat and protect a yugake from the humidity, and when sweating on the hand, it is better to change it frequently.

Mitsugake covers the thumb, the forefinger and the middle finger and yotsugake covers fingers from the thumb to the annular finger and it is equipped with a thimble-like wood (or a horn of water buffalo and so on) which is hollowed out, covering a whole of the thumb. Furthermore, as the part from the base of the thumb to the wrist is reinforced, the part has little degree of freedom for movement by twining kake himo (a leather strap for securing a yugake) and tightening the wrist when wearing a yugake. For this reason, it is difficult to grasp something and so on with a yugake on, and they have to take it off when doing things except for kyusha.

Yugake has a shallow bump (tsurumakura, a part of a yugake glove to set a string) which is enough to set a string at the base of thumb, and they set a string this part and put the middle finger for mitsugake, or the annular finger for yotsugake on the tip of a thumb and add an appropriate twist to the wrist and then the string comes to be held. As an anti-slip technique, they dust the middle finger to the forefinger, or from an annular finger to a forefinger and a thumb tip with 'giriko rosin powder' (pine resin is boiled down, dried and broken into powdered state) and make it fit in.

In kyusha, the good or ill of making of a yugake is very important because it directly relates with the good or ill of shooting and the yugake which has long been used and fitted in the hand of a shooter can not be easily renewed. The well-made yugake is said to last whole life long if it is appropriately cared. For this reason, it is vital to treat the yugake with great care, and (without a linguistic ground) it is often said among kyudo-ka (those who do kyudo) that "kake, kae" (set, hook or place and change) is the word originated "kakegae no nai" (irreplaceable).

Inside of yugake's thumb, there is a hollowed out thimble-like wood or horn of water buffalo (generally called 'tsuno') and so on, and there is a cowhide in the hikae (wrist part) for reinforcement. Reinforcing the thumb part by putting tsuno inside protects the thumb from a pressure of a string and decreases the burden of a wrist by reinforcing the hikae which gives a mechanical spring effect and yugake advantageously works when doing the "Kyudo-shaho hassetsu" (eight arts of shooting an arrow).

In principle, deerskin is used as a leather. This is because the deerskin is the most appropriate in flexibility, moisture absorbency, durability and fine texture which feels soft. In rare cases, other leather is used for decorative purposes, but the leather originating from deerskin such as inden (tanned deerskin or sheepskin) and so on are used in many decorations.

They use the deerskin which is processed into 'fusube-gawa' (a smoked skin). This is tanned deerskin which is dyed brown by burning straws, smoking and tarring (kusube-zome, smoked dyeing), and by this, the leather has the effect of antibacterial and insect deterrent and is softened. Also when deerskin is dyed other colors, it is dyed after the kusube-zome. The stitching of yugake is very fine compared with general sewn products and especially the hand-stitching of yugakeshi or kakeshi (maker of yugake), who are masters, are extremely elaborate.

Deerskin is graded into 'oto quality,' 'chuto quality,' 'koto quality' and 'chibikoto quality' by the age of deer such as oto one from adult deer and koto one from young deer. As the texture of young leather is finer and softer, they are the most appropriate for a yugake, but expensive. Only one portion of deerskin for a yugake can be taken out from one deer because it is taken out from the best part which has the most appropriate thickness and texture and has no scars and so on. At present Japanese deer are protected as natural treasures and thus all the deerskin is imported from foreign countries such as China and so on, but recently the number of deer farming industries is decreasing because they are unprofitable and the future supply is under threat.

Different parts
Kataboshi (a glove with hardened thumb)
It is the most common structure seen in mitsugake, yotsugake and morogake (a five-fingered shooting glove). Tsuno' (a core material which is a thimble-like wood or horn of water buffalo and so on, which is hollowed out) is put inside of boshi (thumb), and the tip of thumb covered with it has no degree of freedom. As there are no direct pressure of a string and little strain on a thumb, it is appropriate for shooting lots of arrows. The base part of the thumb has a bump (tsurumakura) and the form of tsurumakura is a very important part, since it affects shooting and the movement of a flying arrow. Kataboshi with hikae' which reinforces the parts from a boshi to a hikae is now the most common structure and called 'hongake' (an ordinary yugake shooting glove).

Yawaraka boshi, also referred to as Wa boshi (a soft glove [without a hardened thumb])
The boshi (thumb) has no tsuno inside to be reinforced, and there is just more than two sheets of leather on it. That is why a thumb can move freely and is said to be advantageous in "Kyudo-shaho hassetsu" (eight arts of shooting an arrow) because there is no extra resistance against a thumb.

Mitsugake without yawaraka boshi and hikae is sometimes used when a beginner starts to draw a bow or when an amateur experimentally does so because the feel of setting a string is easy and the wrist can move freely. It has the oldest history in the yugake for kyudo and is structurally similar to the yugake used by samurais.

Fushinuki (yugake shooting glove)
It is the structure where the backside part of thumb of boshi's tsuno is hollowed out. It does not reinforce around the thumb and is easy to adjust for the size of thumb. It is a kind of kataboshi yugake and chikuringake shooting glove and so on are fushinuki.

With hikae (commonly called hikaetsuki, a yugake glove with a hard guard to immobilize a wrist)
The wrist (hikae) part has a hard cowhide and so on for reinforcement. It is the most common structure as seen in mitsugake and yotsugake. The structure is the one seen irrespective of yawarakaboshi or kataboshi and by reinforcing hikae, the part from wrist to thumb cannot move freely and is likely to stabilize.
Kataboshi with hikae' is the most common structure and is also called 'hongake.'
In "Kyudo-shaho hassetsu" the reinfarcement by hikae works like a spring and promotes the flip-up of a thumb and do not prevent the movement of a string.

Without hikae (commonly called hikaenashi, a yugake glove without a hard guard to immobilize a wrist)
Contrary to "hikaetsuki," the wrist (hikae) part is not reinforced. It is seen in mitsugake. Also, morogake originally comes from ishagake (a yugake glove for yabusame shooting on horseback) and has no hikae. The structure is a kind which is seen irrespective of yawarakaboshi or kataboshi, and kataboshi has no wrist reinforcment, which makes the movement of a thumb relatively free, and the thumb unlikely interfere with the movement of a string in "Kyudo-shaho hassetsu."

Classification by category
Mitsugake (a three-fingered glove)
It has a form which covers thumb, forefinger and middle finger. Mitsugake' refers to kataboshi with a hikae and a beginner uses mitsugake at first. It is generally used widely by beginners to intermediate level people, and the number of the users of this is the largest. Boshi has no tsuno inside to be reinforced, and the one without hikae is called 'yawarakaboshi' or 'waboshi', and the one where the back of the boshi is hollowed out is called 'fushinuki' to distinguish.

Yotsugake (a four-fingered glove)
It has a form which covers thumb, forefinger, middle finger and annular finger. Yotsugake' refers to kataboshi with a hikae. It is considered that torikake (nocking on with the right hand) is easier than mitsugake since a string is hooked by the annular finger, the middle finger, the forefinger and the thumb. It is widely used among those who are in advanced-level.

A unique yugake of Heki-ryu Chikurin-ha school (of Kyudo). It is a mitsugake and kataboshi of fushinuki. The tip of a thumb and ball of a middle finger which a string touches are patched with a leather, and it is a unique making overall.

As it is made soft, 'kohimo' (a thin strap) is put around a thumb and the strap is tightened to assist the movement of a boshi in "Kyudo-shaho hassetsu."

It has a form which covers all five fingers. Kataboshi without hikae. The way of setting a string depends on the users (those who have originally used three fingers use a mitsugke and those who have originally used four fingers use a yotsugake, naturally, the former and the latter are different in the angle and length of a boshi). The yugake "Murasaki nihon tsugiyubi" which Ogasawara School licensed is famous. Some of those who are in advanced-level use it.

Since hikae is not reinforced, 'kohimo' is twined around thumb once and tighten kake himo (a leather strap for securing a yugake) to assist the movement of boshi in "Kyudo-shaho hassetsu."

It has a form which covers a whole hand and fingers. There is only a small leather pad on the base of thumb as its structure, it looks more likely a leather glove. As the name 'kisha' (to shoot an arrow with riding a horse) suggests, it is used in yabusame (horseback archery) and a thumb and a wrist are not reinforced because of holding the reins. The yugake used by samurais in medieval times were almost the same type. To avoid dropping a bow in wartime, the bow and hand were loosely bonded by kusune (pine resin), which is the word originated "tegusune wo hiite matsu" (to wait in a ready state).

Oshitegake (a yugake glove for the left hand)
Yugake for left hand. There are various types such as the one covering only a thumb, the one covering a forefinger and a thumb, the one covering a whole hand and a wrist and so on.
The main purpose of this is to protect the left hand,
It is not necessary to wear it if the feeling is not right for the user, so the number of the user is not big.

Names of parts
It is the part from the tip to the base of the thumb, which is about 5cm long. It is an important part because it sets a string and receives pressure from the string, and affects the good or ill of shooting such as the angle at which the boshi is set, the thickness, the form and so on.

It is a thimble-like wood or horn of water buffalo and so on, which is hollowed out and set in the boshi part to protect the thumb from the pressure of the string. Currently, wooden materials which are easy to get and process have become mainstream. It covers a whole thumb which is from the tip to the base of a thumb.
The yugake which has tsuno inside or boshi are called 'kataboshi,' and the yugake which does not have tsuno inside or boshi are called 'yawarakaboshi.'

Koshi, ninokoshi
The part which connects boshi with hikae. Kataboshi is reinforced by inserting about two sheets of cowhide. It has a round shape appearance which all connects from boshi to koshi. It changes the effect to "Kyudo-shaho hassetsu" by the differences of its shape and stiffness. And, although chikuringake is kataboshi, it does not have ninokoshi because of the fushinuki structure.

Hikae, ichinokoshi
The part which surrounds koshi and covers the base of the thumb to the wrist and covers the lower end of yugake, which is the radius side. For the yugake with hikae, a piece of cowhide is inserted to reinforce in this part. Also, the figure or hardness of a hikae differently influence the Kyudo-shaho hassetsu.

The part where a string is set and receives direct pressure from a string. Kataboshi has a thumbnail sized cowhide inside to make a bump where a string is set. Wax or kusune are put on here in order to the string to slide smoothly. The form, position, angle and the bump's height in tsurumakura are very important, and if the form is not good, the problems happen, for example, a bow cannot be drawn properly or an arrow cannot fly and so on. The right position and form vary according to the school, the ways of shooting and the intention of the shooters, and depending on the form and position, there are several kinds of gloves such as the glove whose shape is a cross, the oblique glove, the asagake shooting glove, the fukageke shooting glove and so on.

Tsurumizo (a groove of a yugake glove to set a string)
It is a part which is inside of tsurumakura, under a bump and the part where a string is set.

The part which is from the wrist to the top of hand. It consists of a sheet of deerskin and the wrist part has a margin for wrapping the wrist. For mitsugake and yotsugake, one sheet of deerskin covers from the forefinger to the middle finger.

It is a thin belt-like strap made from a deerskin, which is attached to hikae and tied to himo. Chikuringake, morogake and so on are made longer for kohimo to twine the thumb.

Himo, o
It is a belt-like thing which ties a yugake at the wrist part. The himo is wound in the order of do, kohimo and himo, and tied up at the top of hand or inside of hand. Among the parts of a yugake, it is the only one which is interchangeable. Generally a himo is dyed in the same color as a yugake or purple.