Today we were given the great opportunity to attend a Sumo tournament right here in Tamura. This was a huge deal because it was the very first time that a Sumo tournament had come to our city. It would be akin to an NFL game being held in Phoenixville, PA or Elmira, NY. For the past four months, there had been advertising everywhere for the tournament, and our tickets were purchased during our first month here.
Before we entered the sports complex, I caught a quick picture with Kabuton, the mascot of …Tamura? Funehiki? I’m not sure exactly what he’s the mascot of, but you can find him everywhere.
We then entered a long line of people waiting to get in, and were welcomed at the entrance with goodie bags filled with an official Sumo fan, a water bottle, an official Sumo banner, and a program filled with all of the wrestlers names and information. We were also given a special seat cushion. Inside the foyer of the sports complex, there were vendors set up selling ice cream, drinks, the most delicious curry croquets, omiyage, and official Sumo merchandise.
Encho Sensei was able to buy the most expensive seats for us, and we ended up sitting right up front. We saw each droplet of sweat, and lots and lots of Sumo butts. I even poked one of the Sumo wrestlers in the leg as he walked by. Like our onsen experience, it felt awkward at first, but by the end of the day it became a normal cultural experience.
The tournament started with practice, where the wrestlers were able to train and prepare for the official matches. At one point, Harumafuji, the overall champion, went up against a lower level player and tossed him around the ring like a doll. It was interesting to watch and learn how the matches work. We also decided on which Sumo wrestlers we liked the best and hoped would win, and gave some of them nicknames:
The Russian Blue: aptly named because he is Russian.
The Little Guy: aptly named because he was the smallest Sumo wrestler, yet also one of the strongest. He won four practice matches in a row before he lost.
Then, my favorite part: the Children’s Sumo
Some of my students “fought” against the official Sumo’s, and it was so hilarious to see the wrestlers pick them up and play around with them in the ring.
Lunch was a Bento filled with various Japanese items (a lot of rice and fish):
Then, the matches. Before each match, a singer would enter the ring and introduce each of the players; the singers rotated out every few matches.
The hair tying ceremony: it looked intense, and like it hurt. I’m not sure what they put in the wrestler’s hair, but it stuck straight up. Then a sharp comb was used to separate the hair and flatten it into the iconic Sumo hairstyle. I had flashbacks to when my mom would braid my hair, and she would yell “Beauty is pain! Beauty is pain!”
The bow tying ceremony:
And finally, the last match of the day & the bow twirling ceremony:
This guy won:
The mayor of Tamura giving final remarks:
If you want more information (and most likely better explanations about what Sumo is), go HERE.
Today was such a great way to kick off our Summer Vacation and I’m thankful that Wakakusa was able to provide us with such a positive experience.
Tonight I’ll dream of cats and Sumo butts, and tomorrow morning we’ll be on our way to TOKYO. WHAT. The fact that I can say that so nonchalantly makes me giddy.