By Chris Greenaway
Some things come to mind immediately when one thinks of Japan. Geisha Girls, Mount Fuji, Sakura Trees and Shinto are always on the tip of the average gaijin’s tongue when the topic is the Land of the Rising Sun. However, mention Japanese pro sport to most foreigners and the very first thing that comes to mind is usually Sumo!
What is Sumo? Is it just a bunch of fat dudes who like hugging each other? Are those diapers that those guys are wearing? Why can’t they use the Sharp Shooter to win matches?
Sumo is Japan’s oldest organized sport, dating back beyond Japan’s first historical accounts. Japan’s ‘Kojiki’, (Record of Ancient Matters,) originally written in the year 712 claims that the sport is around 2500 years old. The sport, as we know it today, can be traced to the Edo period, (1603-1868,) when it became the merchant class’s sport of choice. This was when the sport first became professional and Yokozunas, or Grand Champions were first awarded.
Today, Sumo is still enormously popular among fans young and old. While sports like Baseball and Soccer have taken a lot of Sumo’s thunder, time seems to stop in Japan when the major tournaments are going on. (These tournaments are bi monthly and televised from start to finish on Japanese tv.)
As to whether or not it is just “a bunch of fat guys in diapers”. These guys are definitely in shape. The weight is usually put on with a heavy diet of liquids, rice gruel and Chanko, (a hot dish that comes in many varieties and contains vegetables, seafood and meat,) which packs on pounds in a hurry. While many, if not most Sumo wrestlers are built for bulk, this approach to conditioning wrestlers for the ring is changing. With more foreigners coming in, a more foreign approach to training with weights and power lifting is starting to take hold. Bulgarian Mahlyanov Kaloyan Stefanov, aka Kotooshu is one of the bigger names in the sport today and he is built more like a WWE wrestler than like your stereotypical Sumo wrestler. This recent shift in training has made for a very interesting contrast in styles and brought more technique oriented matches to Sumo making for a very exciting era for the sport.
Anyone can attend Sumo matches and exhibitions in Tokyo or anywhere in Japan for that matter. THE place to go for your Sumo fix is Ryogoko, aka Sumo Town! (Imagine a Harajuku for Sumo.) Here you will find the Sumo stadium, Sumo stables and many shops, restaurants and any Sumo related stuff you can imagine! You can get there on the JR Sobu Line east of Akihabara, (the consumer/electronics district.)
Tickets are reasonably priced for the most part with prices ranging from 14,300 yen for ringside seats, to 3,600 yen for upper deck “free seats”. For more information regarding tickets, check out the official Nihon Sumo Kyokai website.
Sumo is a fun way to enjoy traditional Japanese culture unspoiled by the changing of the times while still getting the enjoyment of big guys putting the smack down on other big guys!
Until next time, Sumomania is runnin’ wild brother!