Monday, August 5, 2013

Sumo Wrestling In Japan

Of course when you think of Japan, one of the things that usually comes to mind is sumo wrestling. The sport of sumo is unique to Japan and incorporates tradition like no other sport that I can think of. It is probably one of the only sports that hasn't undergone changes year after year due to safety concerns and corporations. We didn't know much about sumo when we got here but we knew we had to watch some sumo while we here. Lucky for us, there was a 15-day tournament in Nagoya (only an hour  away by train) and so we were able to plan a day to stop by Nagoya on our way to Tokyo to see some sumo wrestling and to see Nagoya Castle.
Nagoya Castle
The Sumo Gymnasium
The Sumo Tournament Brochure (In Kanji, you read from right to left)

Each day of the tournament begins around 9am or 10am and runs until 6pm. The day we went consisted of three pools of participants: beginner, second to best (Juryo) and best (Makuuchi). We arrived around 10am and the stadium that seats at least a couple thousand people had only a couple hundred people in attendance. Apparently most people don't arrive until around 2pm before the second to best group begins. It must be noted that the majority of the tournament is made up of beginners. It was nice to witness both parts of the competition because things really picked up with the other pools, mainly things were more formal and official while the beginners pool was a little more relaxed.

The Makuuchi (the best pool) - Entering the ring before the sumo began for their pool

The sumo lineup
This video shows the presentation of one of the top two Makuuchi- apparently the top two (one from the west and one from the east) perform a ceremonial presentation to show their strength and agility
"The basic rules of sumo are simple: the wrestler who first touches the ground with anything besides the soles of his feet, or who leaves the ring before his opponent, loses. Fights take place on an elevated ring, called a "dohyo", which is made of clay and covered in a layer of sand. The fights themselves usually last only a few seconds, or in rare cases, about a minute...There are no weight restrictions or classes in sumo, meaning that wrestlers can easily find themselves matched off against someone many times their size. As a result, weight gain is an essential part of sumo training." (Japan Guide
Above is a clip Nick posted to youtube from the tournament of an entire fight sequence. Note the traditional salt purification (throwing), stomping, squatting, and all the different ritualistic stances.
Some Sumo wrestling captures
More Sumo
A break for the advertisements to cross the dohyo
The final score board
The winner of the day's tournament does his ceremonial closing presentation
 Read more about Sumo on Wikipedia

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