Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Let's Sumo!

Aaron here: So, last Thursday, we participated in a truly Japanese event. We went to see some wrastling! Of the Sumo persuasion, of course. It was very fun, and exciting, and we made an entire day out of it in the great city of Osaka. We had to get up pretty early to travel to Osaka to buy tickets. Unfortunately, though we got to the booths at 8:00 a.m., the line was ridiculously long, and a police officer on duty told us that we'd be better off waiting in line to buy the more expensive tickets. It ended up costing us about ten extra dollars each, but it was totally worth it.
Here's some introduction info for you. There are about 800 Sumo wrestlers in Japan. Because of this, Sumo is an all day, almost every day activity. We hit up a Macu (McDonald's) after buying our tickets, but we were seated around 10, and already, the bouts were going.

Here is Kendra and Katherine, still early in the morning. There is a large area of floor cushions around the arena, where anyone is allowed to sit until the owners of the seats arrive and boot you. So, we were sitting about 20 yards away from the arena for several hours. It was a good vantage point.

Like a concert, the wrestlers fight in order of rank. The beginners wrestle first, and the later in the day, the higher ranking the wrestlers. Here are a couple low-ranking wrestlers. We got to watch them close up, which was very interesting. You can tell they are low-ranking because of their dull-gray mawashi (their big diaper-ish wrestling garb). There were some real big boys, even in the younger, less experienced ranks.

Before each division of wrestlers began their bouts, they came out in very decorative outfits. The green one here is actually a picture of a small deer pushing a wheelchair-bound child along. We thought this was kind of strange, and it almost definitely means that that particular wrestler is from Nara (mentioned in previous posts) which is famous for its domestic deer population.

Later in the afternoon, we moved up to our seats. Here is a view of the Dohyo (arena) from farther up the stands. The arena is made completely of a special kind of clay. There were even cracks running through it. The boundaries are made of tightly wound straw that are partially buried into the clay.

In case you are unfamiliar with the rules of Sumo, they are very simple. Basically, once the match begins, one wrestler needs only to force the other to cross slightly over the circular boundary, or to tuch the dohyo with any part of their body other than their feet. Because of this, the matches often only last a few seconds.

Here is the introduction of the highest ranking wrestlers. The wrestlers are divided into two divisions--the East and the West. Actually, the divisions have nothing to do with where the wrestlers are from or what locations they represent. It is merely a way to make two groups to fight each other. For instance, there are two Yokozuna (top ranking wrestlers), one from the East, and one from the West, but neither have to be from either side of Japan. In fact, one of them right now is from Mongolia.

Below, there are two videos. One is the introduction dance of one of the Yokozuna. The other, is a video of the final match of the night, between the other Yokozuna and a Ozeki (second highest rank). This night, both Yokozuna lost, which is ridiculous. One of the them was 11-0 and the other was 10-1 before this night, so both of them losing is just strange. When there is a strong upset toward the end of a night, the crowd may throw their cushions to show how impressed they are. You can judge by the amount of cushions thrown in the video how impressed we all were. Enjoy.

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