After a long nap following our early morning at Tsukiji, we got ready to go watch some sumo. We waited with Yumi for Yusuke to come home from school, snacked, and then the four of us left. From my understanding, there are five 15-day tournaments a year; 3 in Tokyo, one in Osaka, and one in Fukuoka. So we’re lucky that we’re both in Tokyo during a tournament and that Yumi wanted to take us. Although each day of the tournament goes from 8:30am to 6pm, the top wrestler only fight in the final hour. We got there at around 4, so I had some time to look around the arena as well as observe and learn from a few matches before the main events. As far as the tournament structure, each wrestler only has one match per day. I think there’s different divisions too, so there are rankings within each division. The matches are incredibly quick, lasting only a few seconds. Basically, you lose if you step outside of the circle or are pushed/thrown/tripped to the floor.
Although the match itself is quick, the preparation takes several minutes. First, the dirt floor is swept by men (women aren’t allowed on the floor, because they’re considered impure). Then the two wrestlers come up, grab some salt out of a big sack on the floor and then toss it on the floor (to purify the floor). Then they go to the parallel chalk lines, face each other, squat down like a lineman, lift and stretch each leg, then they both retreat and do it all over again starting with the salt. This is done three times and on the fourth time, they repeat the same process, but instead of walking away they put their fists to the floor. Once both wrestlers have touched the floor, the match starts, so essentially the last one to touch the floor has control when to go. There are 82 official winning moves, but most of the matches we saw were won by using their opponents momentum against them, but most went straight for each other, grabbed their opponents’ belts, and either got their opponent off-balance or just straight muscled them out of the circle. It was really exciting to see all the rituals of the match and how quickly each match was decided.
After the all the matches had finished, we headed out to dinner. But not to just any dinner, but a meal at a sumo stable. All sumo wrestlers live at “sumo stables,” sort of residence/training compounds run by yokozunas (sumo champion). You could probably think of the wrestlers in a stable like an Olympic team, in that they train together but could potentially compete against one another. Anyways, the Tosu’s were invited becasue Yusuke goes to school with the daughter of Asahifuji Seiya, the yokozuna that ran the stable we visited. The stable was in quiet Tokyo neighborhood and just looked like a really big house. We rang the bell and a young beefy guy wearing only shorts welcomed us in. Immediately beyond the foyer was a large room with a sumo ring in it, the training room. We took an elevator up to the dining room, a large room with a long floor table surrounded by cushions.
guests eating and sumos cooking in background
me and sumos
A few people were sitting and eating already, while there were also several shirtless sumos milling around. At the head of the table was the famous Asahifuji Seiya, who was introduced to us (and referred to throughout the evening) simply as “master.” I guess how it works is that since the lesser-skilled wrestlers have earlier matches, they return straight home right away and begin cooking for the top couple wrestlers, master, and his family and guests. So we sat and ate, as these guys shuffled around serving us food and drinks. They could not begin eating until we had finished. Besides the few simple questions in English, I didn’t really understand any of the conversation, but it was a fun night. Below are photos of us with the master, Ama (he ended up coming in second in the whole tournament!), and Aminishki (another top wrestler).
us and yokozuna master Asahifuji Seiya
us and Ama
us and Aminishki