Tag Archives: Ryogoku

The Ultimate Endurance Sport

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!

ewwww!

omnom­nom!

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.