How lucky am I that during my time here in Japan there is a major Sumo tournament happing in Tokyo (only 50kms away). I mean I could have had cherry blossom season or the Japanese Maple Tree leaves changing from an illuminescent green to a deep red and orange, but no I am here for big men in loincloths!!
Off Merilyn and I went for our day of Sumo. We found the big stadium but first decided to have lunch in the sumo wrestling themed restaurant. I have to mention the snow crab – it was delicious. Unfortunately nothing really exciting happened in he sumo themed restaurant but luckily for us the tournament was a different story!
When I was booking the seats for the tournament there were three options to choose from. Ringside seats, boxes or arena seats. With the ringside seats came a warning:
“There is the danger of suffering injuries due to falls from the ring by wrestlers and other participants. Admission will be denied to persons unable to respond to such situations (children, physically disabled individuals, etc.). Upon suffering injuries as described above while viewing the event, first aid will be provided at a clinic or other suitable location. However, no subsequent compensation or other payments can be made. Consumption of food or beverages, the carrying in of dangerous articles or acts of filming with cameras or other means is prohibited.”
Unfortunately there were no ringside seats left. And after seeing some of the competitors fall into t he crowd I think I am glad that we didn’t have that option (because I probably would have gone for it). We got arena seats which are the standard seat we get in stadiums in Australia – I am also glad that we couldn’t get a box seat as they were just cushions on the floor in a little box – I would have pins and needles galore that day!)
When we first arrived the stadium was nearly empty. It was a bit worrying as I thought that this was going to be a big event with a fantastic atmosphere. We soon learnt that not many people come and watch the Banzuke category, as these are the beginners. The Juryo category is next and the crowd starts to roll in for this but it is the Makuuchi category that draws the crowd – these are the champions! The crowd goes wild and once gentle quiet people soon turn into roaring, cheering fans.
Tradition in sumo wrestling is just as important as the actual match (if not more so). In each category there are different traditions but they are all based on the basics. I am going to describe the Makuuchi category. A ‘MC’ who sings their introduction introduces the two opponents. They step up into the ring and take a cup of water from another competitor who is next in line for their match. The water is not swallowed but swirled and then spat out into a bowl. Because the Japanese are so polite they cover their mouth with a cloth so you don’t actually see the spitting. Then they do some stretches that I liked to call the ‘fart and shit’ stretch. First they would slap themselves and then lift their leg up to the side (fart) and then squat (shit). Next they would grab a handful of salt and throw it over the match area of the ring. Standing behind the line they psyche each other out with stares, grunts and more slapping and stretching. And then the procedure starts again (but without the water/spitting) – and is repeated 4 times. After the 4th time the ‘ref’ indicates that he is ready and it begins. In the earlier categories it is just a lot of pushing and shoving. The aim is to get your opponent to land outside of the ring or fall in the ring. As the afternoon went on we saw the difference in the categories. The champions in the Makuuchi category do a lot more ‘bitch slapping’ and lifting in the air and throwing. Oh the excitement!!!! The hilarious part is that the tradition part of the match actually lasts longer than the actual wrestling!
After spending the afternoon watching huge fat men, in loincloths with their butt hanging out, we headed to a pub to watch huge muscly men in tight shorts and vests play footy!!!! Yes we found an Aussie pub that was playing the Eagles vs. Collingwood match (and we were the only Eagles fans in the huge crowd of 10!) A great day of sport!