Sunday, 27 November 2011


Yesterday was a national holiday, so David-san, Henry-chan, Mashu-chan, Sarah-chan and I headed to Hakata docks to see the Kyushu exhibition of the national sumo tour. Fat on fat on slap on slap; it was fun, it was fascinating and it was hilarious.

To get the tickets we had shuffled down to FamilyMart, disturbed the peace of the staff with the commotion of trying to ask for help and ended up with slightly more expensive tickets than we had hoped for: around £40.

On the day itself, which was a national holiday, we went for Hakata Ramen in Tenjin, in the shadow of the Nishitetsu Grand Hotel, then caught a bus to the docks. I love violent sports by the docks.

The entrance to the hall, which probably also hosted concerts and other sports, was busy and crammed with shops and souvenir stands. Notwithstanding, the arena itself was rather empty at around 2:00 when we arrived (note that the wrestling had started at around 9 or 10 in the morning). This is because there are several sumo leagues and they start with the lesser skilled wrestlers. The good stuff only starts around 2.
I had previously seen sumo on the telly and knew that there was a lot of waiting for things to happen. True as that was, in real life all of the ceremony, singing, chanting and salt-chucking was strangely mesmerising and, despite sitting still and being ill for four hours, I didn’t get bored once. We had seats quite high up, but with a direct view of the ring and all that lovely wobbly fat.

We saw the second division’s bouts and the premier division’s bouts. As with every other bloody thing in this country, hierarchy is very important in sumo, so there’s a strict pecking order for the bouts. Only some of them are allowed to wear special decorative aprons before the bouts, and they’re not all allowed to throw salt to purify the ring. Also, if I understand correctly, the colour of the nappies they wear is of significance though the details escape me.

It was also very interesting to see the number of gaijin wrestlers: white guys who've come to Japan and are giving the Japanese guys a run for their money. Still huge, these guys are clearly more muscular (and hairy!). The most famous of the gaijin wrestlers is a Latvian!

Tension built as the final bouts approached. Some of these guys are pretty famous and though the sport has been somewhat disgraced in recent years (match fixing, bullying &c.) the Japanese really did seem to love it, and we did too.

I dare say pictures will follow……………..

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