Saturday, May 21, 2011

watching sumo

In January 2011, a sumo championship was held in Tokyo. We took the chance to see these bull-like men in their tight shorts fighting and to get an idea of what sumo is all about. What I like on sumo is this very interesting mix of old traditional Shinto‑culture and live-entertainment for the whole family, which is broadcasted nation-wide and very popular. It has managed to survive with its formalized rituals and traditional etiquette, what makes it unique among other popular sports. 
Sumo has his origin in the Shinto-religion and a long history. Already in the Nara Period, 1300 years ago, the Emperor gathered wrestlers from all over the country to hold a tournament called sechio-zumo. The first sumo matches were a form of ritual dedicated to the gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest and performed together with sacred dancing and dramas. Early sumo was a rough-and-tumble affair, combining elements of boxing and wrestling. In the Kamakura period, about 800 years ago, when Japan stuck in civil war, sumo was regarded chiefly for its military usefulness. Juijitsu has its origin in sumo. Later, in the Edo Period, 1600-1860 ac., peace was finally restored in Japan and professional sumo groups were organized to entertain the people.
The rules of fighting are quite simply. A rikishi loses when he touches the ground with anything except his feet. Fights can be tough and as there are no weight limits as in boxing or western wrestling it is possible for a rikishi to find himself pitted against an opponent twice his own weight.
There are six Grand Sumo Tournaments a year, three of them in Tokyo. A tournament lasts for fifteen days, each rikishi (sumo fighter) fighting once every day with a different opponent. Every tournament day starts as early as 8:30 am with the lowest classes and trainees and ends at about 6:00 pm with the fight of the Yokozuna, the Grand Champion of Sumo. Winner is the rikishi with the best record of wins over losses and gains the Emperor’s Cup on the final day. There are additional prices for best fighting technique, fighting spirit and even one for upsetting the Yokuzuna.
The Tokyo Kokugikan (Sumo hall) is in Ryogoku, not far from Asakusa. We arrived there at about 11:00 am and spent the whole day watching sumo, eating lunch, drinking beer and having fun. It was a nice and relaxed atmosphere. 

I uploaded pictures with a story line here.

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