Monday, January 21, 2013

January 2013 Grand Sumo Tournament

This past Sunday was the opening of the 2013 Sumo season. Though I have watched some on TV on TV (NHK) from time to time, I had never been to a live match before. Though an expensive ticket, it seemed like a must while in Japan.  To ensure the experience was complete, we sprang for Masu-Seki "seats", which, of course were not seats at all.  Masu Seki are are small sections with 4 cushions separated from other sections by a metal frame. And though it is technically possible to seat 4 people in these areas,  it wouldn't recommend it.  As you can see from the picture below, they are perhaps ideal for two people.  On this day we had three.

But thanks to my friend Justin and my colleague at NIDS Tomikawa-san, I was able to learn a great deal about this intriguing sport called Sumo, which is perhaps the most Japanese of all sports.The day begins very early with the doors opening up at 830 and the first matches for the lower divisions taking place in the morning. However, most people, including myself, didn't arrive till the afternoon.  Even at 1 pm when I arrived, the crowd was very sparse.  But by the time  the Makuuchi division (the top division) took to the dohyō (土俵) (ring), the arena was filled up with people digging into their bento boxes and washing it down with beer and sake.

The climax was, of course, when the two Yokozuna took the ring to face their opponents.  The hope being that one of them will lose their match, and then pandemonium breaks loose and people thrown their seat cushions into the dohyō. Alas, both Yokozuna won their matches, much to the delight of the operators of the arena, who admonished spectators to not throw their seat cushions in advance of the matches.

To complete experience, Justin, Tomikawa-san, and I ended the night by visiting one of the Chanko Nabe restaurants near the Kokugikan Sumo Stadium in Tokyo.  This is the traditional meal is a Japanese stew of various types of meat, fish, tofu and vegetables and is used by sumo wrestlers to achieve their fighting weight.  Hence my term for it, Chunky Nabe.

Opening Ceremony for the Makuuchi Division (Top Division)

Masu Seki: Spaciously Seating for 2 in 4 Person Booth

Post Match Chanko Nabe Restaurant (aka Chunky Nabe)

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