No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

29 August, 2009


We went to our first sumo match this weekend! It was all I had hoped it to be.

outside the train station at Ryogoku

Each wrestlers name is on one of these brightly colored banners strung on bamboo poles

Inside Ryogoku stadium, the doyho. I have to admit, in all my American movie trivia, it reminded me of the final fight scene in the Japanese stadium in Karate Kid 2.

This is one of the 2 yokozuna (grand champion) at the tournament doing his special doyho-iri ceremony to drive evil from the dohyo. A wrestler becomes a yokozuna by winning at least 2 tournaments in a row. This yokozuna is Mongolian, who took the Japanese name of Asashoryu. There have been only 69 yokozuna in the past 300 years of sumo. That's why when we met Akebono (a former yokozuna and 1 of only 2 or 3 living grand champs) at a friend's bbq in June, it was a huge event.

flash back: bbq in Zushi in June with Akebono

Each match takes mere seconds, just long enough to push your opponent out of the ring or drop him to the floor. The lead up to the match is where the flair and pomp is--wrestlers throw salt to purify the ring as a sacred place, stomp the ring to squash the bad spirits and sip water to purify their bodies. Sumo is actually an ancient religious ritual to honor the gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest.

The wrestlers try to rile each other up and glare at each other in this pose. They have 4 minutes before they must start wrestling, so they can fake each other out a few times before actually starting the match.

The mawashi (silken loincloth) is actually a tool. There are seventy winning tricks that can be won by gripping the mawashi. Can you believe they can actually pick each other up? We saw one pick up another and throw him out of the ring.

The official in the ring as the wrestlers stomp the ground and prepare.

The entrance ceremony for the big boys, or the maku-uchi matches. The aprons they are wearing can cost from 400,000 to 500,000 yen (40,000-50,000 USD).

Just before the final match. Only McDonald's could find the gumption to advertise at a sport thousands of years old. How do they sleep at night?

The closing ceremony bow dance.

And the winner of the entire tournament was crowd favorite yokozuna Asashoryu.

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