This weekend, we took the train to Nagoya (home of Toyota) to see the Sumo Wrestling Championship semi-finals.
Obviously, I’m a huge sumo wrestling fan, and I follow the sport religiously.
I wanted to see sumo wrestling because I’ve heard about it for years, and it seemed like the kind of magical “only in Japan experience” that I’d always remember. Also, I’m a sucker for amazing outfits.
And now I’m sitting here googling “sumo wrestling rules” because I have no idea what I just saw.
I get the gist: first guy to push the other guy out of the ring (or off his feet) wins. Also the sport is wrapped in religious ceremony, and it follows a very structured routine. (No showboating allowed!)
But sometimes they strategically “false start” and repeat the whole pattern endlessly and that’s where I get confused…
This much I know is true: At the start of the day’s events, the wrestlers are called to the stage individually, and they parade in a circle.
I’m only mentioning this so I can shamelessly post this photo:
To begin each bout, the two athletes bow to each other, then kick each leg out to the side. When they touch their hands to the floor, that begins the fight.
We bought our tickets online from a guy named Jeff whose email address ends in “BuySumoTickets.com.”
That sounds super-sketchy, but our tickets arrived express mail within a week and it could not have been easier to send a large sum of money overseas.
We sat here, in what are called “box seats.”
Like the meaning of a box seat, there were so many things I didn’t realize about Sumo until yesterday.
For example, the athletes all live and train together in a heya, where their lives are strictly regimented. They’re not allowed to leave unless their coach leaves to create another heya. They eat two meals a day, timed to maximize weight gain.
There are no weight divisions in sumo—but the men fall into these categories: big, huge, and ginormous.
Another fun fact: hardly any Japanese people compete in the top levels—it’s mostly Mongolians and a few Russians. (One man I talked to in Tokyo said it’s because “Japanese people today don’t want to be fat.”)
The winner of this tournament was Harumafuji, from Mongolia.
Here he is below, in blue: I don’t have a picture of him, but here is one of the few Japanese wrestlers, Kotoshogiku. (Thanks, DKR for the fact-check!)
The dude on the right, below, is the first Czech wrestler to qualify for the top level Sumo competition. Apparently sumo wrestling is very popular in the Czech republic.
He goes by the name Takanoyama, but his birth name is Pavel Bojar.
During one of the bouts, the wrestler’s belt came undone (or something? the announcer didn’t explain anything in English) so the athletes had to freeze in their exact positions while the referee tied it.
What a nice surprise to arrive hungry and realize that they sold bento boxes!
I bought one.
I often have no idea what i’m served in this country.
It usually works out great.
In conclusion, sumo was everything I dreamed it would be (big men! big moves! little clothing!) but more fun because there were 20 fights and the day moved quickly.
Plus I really liked my lunch.