Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo
The Grand Sumo Tournament is held 6 times a year in Japan – 3 in Tokyo and 1 each in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. They’re a big deal, and tickets are hard to get. Enter Mila’s sister Heather and her husband Zack, who swooped into Japan for a couple of weeks and took us to see the sumo in Tokyo!
The tournament goes on for 15 days, and each wrestler fights once each day. There’s something so simple and visceral about the sport. It’s just two enormous, nearly naked dudes colliding at high speed, pawing, grabbing, and pulling, with the simple aim of pushing the opponent out of the ring. Most bouts are over just a few seconds after they begin. The bulk of the time is taken up by the ritual before the fight – the wrestlers face off, squat, stomp, throw purifying salts into the ring. This part is important – Sumo has its roots in Shinto religious traditions – but it’s also a chance for the crowd to relax, drink beer, eat snacks, and socialize.
This to me was the pleasant surprise of the sumo stadium: It is an immensely social experience. We had mid-level tatami mat seats- four people to a “box”. All the pomp and ceremony gives you plenty of time to look around, people watch, or chat and share snacks with your neighbors (all of which we did). After the second or third false face-off, the wrestlers retreat to their corners one more time and wipe their faces with a towel. This is the signal that the next face-off will be for real, and there’s an audible stir in the audience. Everyone focuses on the bout, it’s over in a few seconds, a minute tops, and then everyone relaxes and goes back to hanging out. It’s almost like being at a baseball game – not a bad way to spend an afternoon!
Enjoy the photos and if you ever get a chance to see real Sumo, go! I can’t wait to go again.