One of the funniest things I have seen in my life was my (English) boyfriend trying to ask some Japanese shopkeepers about Sumo… in Japanese. Bless his heart. They didn’t understand. (Something about the pronunciation – in English we would say “Sumo” – pronounced “Soo-mo”. The Japanese pronunciation is more like “Soo-moh” I think…?) So to explain what he meant, he had to turn to our default communication system – Mime. Which meant acting out sumo in the middle of a Japanese shop. If only I had a video camera. Anyway, thanks to his perseverance, and visiting three different shops to buy tickets (cue a repeat performance of the Sumo act!) we got tickets for the Sumo!!
We arrived bright and early, and immensely excited. Well, I say “bright and early”… it was bright and early for us but we were running a tad late – as per usual. We were worried we would miss the start etc… and then we got there and found the entire place empty. We had purchased the second-to-cheapest seats, but we were able to walk right to the front and see it close-up. (As the day progressed, more people turned up and claimed their seats and by the evening every seat was full!)
The man in the beautiful gown is the referee. He would tunefully chant something before each fight – maybe announcing the names of the wrestlers? Obviously we were unable to understand what he was saying! The ring would often be swept as well, and then often some salt would be thrown into the ring. Then the sumo wrestlers would perform a kind of dance, where they would slap their thighs and then raise one leg and then the other. Once they were ready, they would adopt the “ready” position, squatting down facing each other. Eventually both wrestlers would put their fists on the floor to signal that they were ready. As soon as the fists touched the floor that appeared to be the signal to go for it, and the fight began! Although I should add that I am no sumo expert – this is merely what I gathered from watching it all day!
By the evening the stadium had filled up, and the sumo wrestlers wore colourful flags and all stood on the stage and stamped their way through a dance, which I assume was a ritual in honour of the tournament.
By this stage the tension was really mounting. The sumo wrestlers would create tension by moving toward putting their fist on the floor (to signal readiness) and then retreat – we assume to psych out their opponent. Each time they did this the crowd went wild!! We tried to work out what was going on, and this was our conclusion.
We felt privileged to attend this event. We were immensely lucky as the sumo tournament is only held in Tokyo twice a year and we just happened to be there when it was on. It was an amazing day!
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