Sunday, August 31, 2014


I mean, SUMO!!!!

The sporting part of our Japan trip continued, and we headed to Nagoya to catch one day of the sumo tournament there.  You can't just roll up and see sumo matches whenever you're in Japan.  There has to be a tournament on and even then, the tournament might not be on in the city where you are.  So it takes some planning.  (Side note, you can visit the stable [yep, the place where the sumo wrestlers live and train is called a "stable"] in Tokyo and watch them train but it's not the same as a tournament.)  We only went to Nagoya for the sumo, but it turned out to be a nice city--nothing remarkable, just a nice and regular city in Japan.

The stadium opens at 8 am or something, and the bouts start with lower level wrestlers and guys in training.  Most people turn up mid-afternoon, when the matches get better feature the bigger name guys.  Here are some of the higher ranked wrestlers arriving.  I don't know who these guys are, but I got caught up in the frenzy of their arrival--there's something funny about finding yourself thrilled over seeing someone that everyone else thinks is a celebrity.

We were shown to our box, which had space for two persons and a table.  You take off your shoes when entering your box and sit on the floor.  (There are regular old seats, but they are further back in the stadium.)  Here's the old guy next to us with his scorecard, binoculars, and Sapporo.  He is obviously a seasoned spectator.

We had some pretty darn good seats!  Everything I read beforehand made me expect the matches would be "boring" and more about the pageantry in between bouts and less about the bouts because they were over so quickly.  Boy, was I misled!  The buffalo stancing before bouts was pretty great--and not at all too long.  They do those high side leg raises and throw sand on the ring.  Boo-yah!  I was feeling that!  Then they squat down and eye each other until one of them makes a move to get to wrasslin'... or they stand up again and front a bit more with the salt throwing and all.  How is this boring??

Once they start, it's on!  Some bouts are short, wherein one guy tosses the other guy outside the lines (sometimes pretty raucously, taking out the richies in the front skrilla seats), while other bouts go on for at least a minute--even almost stalemating while these two giants are stuck in position, mid-grapple.  Finally, someone is forced out of the ring (this is how you win) and the match is over.  Sometimes it's hard to tell who goes out first, and then the referee calls up some other robed referees, they confer, and then the winner is chosen.

Here's a photo mid-match.  I took some video, but I'm having trouble loading it.  (But check my instagram here and you can see a video midway down the page.)

The last few matches get really heated and the crowd is super into it, cheering and chanting for their favorites.  One of the favorites is Endo.  Follow the link to see a pic of his fancy apron.  They all wear these fancy aprons when they first parade around the ring.  But yeah, if the crowd doesn't like the outcome of the match, they throw their seat pillows toward the ring.  (This is what you'll see in my insta-video.)  It's like pillow confetti up in that piece!

Here is some sumo swag.  Don't know who these guys are, but I love the handprints.  There are lots of wrestlers from Mongolia and a really good guy from Bulgaria on the circuit these days.  They also serve chankonabe at the stadium, but they only make a limited amount and it was sold out by the time we arrived.  Anyway, this is the stew that the wrestlers eat to gain weight.  Yeah, I probably didn't need any of that.  

Sumo fans.