Tag Archives: yokozuna

The Ultimate Endurance Sport

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We met outside our accommodation at the scarily early hour of 7.30AM; Phoebe and I had looked into the ongoing Sumo Grand Tournament in Tokyo and managed to convince a bunch of the guys and girls to come along and watch. Some of us from Cambridge were joined by the ever-eager Finns and we set off towards the Sumo district of Ryogoku. The tournament lasts for about 2 weeks and since each individual bout only lasts mere seconds, you have the opportunity to see many, many fights in just one day. General admission [unreserved] tickets were the cheapest and were only on sale on the particular day of the event – first come, first served! We were worried they would sell out and so we arranged it so that we would arrive just as the box office opened (8.30AM). This turned out to be a premature caution since it didn’t seem to sell out until much later!

The junior wrestlers were given bouts early on, whilst the higher ranked wrestlers came on later. We decided to go to the nearby Edo-Tokyo Museum to kill some time so that we didn’t get burnt out by watching so much sumo. The museum was fairly interesting and had many relics from the Edo-period of Japan. It also had a section on Japan during the Second World War. We spent 2-3 hours soaking in the culture there, whilst simultaneously hyping up the sumo that we were about to see [“OMG sumo is gonna be awesome!”].

We stopped by in a nearby convenience store to get some drinks and snacks. Phoebe and Kaisa both went for tuna-mayo Onigiri [filled rice ball wrapped in seaweed] and I was surprised to see such contrasting reactions!



When we entered the arena at just after midday, we felt smug in thinking that since we had managed to spend three hours elsewhere we would be able to endure the rest of the fights that day. Although we bought seats in the very back row of the arena [‘nosebleed section’], most of the other seats were empty and so we seized the opportunity to move closer until someone would come to claim their seat.

A fight between two junior wrestlers. Note the empty stadium!

We spent an hour watching some junior ranked wrestlers before going off the eat in the underground hall. They were serving chankonabe [traditional ‘Sumo Stew’] for only 250 JPY and so we happily paid the token sum to have the opportunity to try food that real sumo wrestlers ate on a regular basis [as a side note, we were in McDonalds earlier that day and saw a wrestler wolfing down a Big Mac meal!]. The stew was extremely tasting and filling, although I couldn’t imagine it containing very many calories in comparison to the meals available in modern cuisine (i.e. junk food!).

The stew went down well with Antti!

We returned to the arena in our appropriate seats and watched the rest of the show. THIS IS WHERE TIME SLOWED DOWN. There was still over 5 hours of fights left. There were only about 30 seconds between each fight and so I soon grew tired of the repetitiveness and ceremonial chanting. Most of the stadium was still empty and we can now understand why! Although sumo is certainly very interesting to witness, it loses its charm when you see over 100 bouts in a row! I even managed to take a quick nap on the back row whilst the ‘action’ was going on. Each match was extremely similar to the next, and I couldn’t even tell the difference between the appearance of most of the wrestlers [“fat guy” and “fatter guy” were the most common nicknames].

A more senior fight with a full stadium.

We impatiently waited for the end of the day where we would be able to witness the fight of the Yokozuna [sumo champion!]. The ceremonial dancing and chanting become particularly more elaborate and it helped to build the suspense. The crowd even began to cheer the names of the wrestlers and it felt like something exciting was going to happen. By this point our conversation had drifted to random Finnish swear words but we maintained our enthusiasm for the Yokozuna. The stadium at this point was almost completely full and for a second, just a second, I truly believed my enduring efforts would be rewarded. So how did the final, epic battle turn out? One of the wrestlers lost his footing and fell to his knees within the first two seconds. Match over.