Upsets Galore

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My first experience watching sumo wrestling live was great. My first chance to watch sumo on TV was back in 1989 when the largest wrestler ever (~800 pounds) and one of the most powerful wrestlers ever were both active. It helped me understand a lot of the excitement of the sport and built interest.

Until last year, I would often come home from work and catch the matches on TV. School Board jobs typically finish up at 4:15 in the afternoon and the top level sumo always finishes broadcasting at 6pm. This timing made it convenient to forget about annoying adolescents, while making dinner and watching about an hour of sports. Last year, I picked up cable TV and typically watch some American shows during decompression time.

Our party of twelve sat in three adjacent boxes. Significant numbers of foreigners go to the tourneys, but they sit in the cheap seats and come in small groups. Certainly, we were a sight. The boxes are flat squares about 160cm on a side with four zabuton (座布団), butt-sized futon, laid out. They rest atop pipe scaffolds and have a low pipe railing around them on four sides.

Kat and I arrived at 9:30am, just an hour after the doors opened. We stayed straight through the entire event. Several levels of wrestlers compete. The early matches are the lower ranks and the last section is the top ranks. The highest-ranked fighter is the last to see action. The intensity and skill levels ramp up sharply in the afternoon, and the crowd’s excitement follows. Tickets ran less than $100 and we got a good 8 and a half hours of viewing in, so we were paying around $10 an hour for the fun.

There are pretty much no restrictions on what you can carry with you. Most guests bring a lot of food and drink into the arena, but some people order up something inside. A number of the boxes had pre-ordered tea service. The pic-nic like nature, the drinking, and the length of the event all make sumo seem like Japan’s replacement for cricket. One lesson learned is that, if drinking, pacing is needed so you are lucid when the best matches go down.

Takamisakari (高見盛), always a crowd-pleaser for his showmanship, pulled out an amazing victory. The top two athletes, Hakuho (白鳳) and Asashoryu (朝青龍), both lost their matches in good struggles. These three matches really got the crowd going and a lot of zabuton were thrown at the finish.

Extremely exciting or disappointing outcomes in the final bout will result in virtually everyone throwing their cushions into the ring. Usually this is only done for the last match because you don’t want to end out with nothing to sit on. After Takamisakari’s big win, I almost threw mine. A lot of folks around us were greatly amused.

The tournament ends on Sunday, so I won’t have another chance to go; however, I may have to book seats in May for the Nagoya event.

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One Response to “Upsets Galore”

  1. Back to the Belly Bumping « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] by 8:30am for the opening of the days events. You may recall that 12 foreigners gathered for the Osaka tournament. I had hoped to get there for the opening, but was tired and had trouble booting my friend out of […]

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