Yesterday, we went to watch some Sumo wrestling! This happens three times a year in Tokyo (and three times a year in other locations throughout Japan). Luckily, we happened to be here during one of the 15 day tournaments. It was sooooo cool.
Apparently, the tournaments last all day with the higher level wrestlers competing at the end. We got there early enough to watch some lower level matches then we saw the top Sumo wrestlers. They pretty much look like you would imagine….very large almost naked men wearing silk loincloths (mawashi)! I really don’t want to trivialize what they do because the history of Sumo has religious origins. Luckily, there were pamphlets (in English) at the tournament that explained the history, rules, and other aspects of Sumo.
The sumo ring is called the dohyo. A bout is won by forcing the opponent out of the inner circle or throwing him in the dohyo. The wrestlers are referred to as rikishi. Unlike western boxing or wrestling, there are no weight limits. So, it is possible for a rikishi to have an opponent twice his own weight. The highest level rikishi is referred to as Yokozuna. In the past 300 years, only 69 rikishi have ever been awarded this title.
It was really interesting to see all the ceremony and ritual that goes into each match. The actual “wrestling” only lasts about 5-10 seconds but the series of symbolic movements leading up to it is very dramatic! To cleanse his mind and body, the rikishi symbolically rinses his mouth with water, the source of purity, and wipes his body with a paper towel. [Justin cringed every time the sumo wrestler would wipe his arm pits and then his face!] Then they would raise their arms to the side, stamp their feet, throw salt, and hit their face/chest/thighs. This process has a time limit of 4 minutes. In the past there was no time limit and matches could go on indefinitely.
Then, the rikishi squat and face each other in the center of the ring.
Side note: I couldn’t believe how flexible these 400-450 lbs guys were. They were able to lift their legs up way in the air and squat down on their toes!!
As I said, the actual wrestling only lasts a few seconds, but it was so cool to watch!!!
Justin has more Sumo pictures on his camera and will post those as soon as he gets a chance!
That night we went to bed early because we had to get up at 2 am to meet the tour guide for the fish market at 3 am!! The Tsukiji Fish Market is the biggest fish market in the world where every different variety of fish is sold or auctioned. It was really an incredible thing to witness.
All the work is done in the middle of the night/early morning so that the fish can get on the trucks before the traffic gets bad. It is a very busy work environment. I’m glad that we had a English-speaking tour guide to show us around. I’m not sure that it would have been a good idea for us to attempt this alone. To say that it is busy in there is a huge understatement!!
We saw frozen tuna being unloaded from the trucks. We also saw the fresh tuna laid out so that it could be auctioned to the “middle men.” The middle men buy the fish whole from the “auctioners” who are selling it on behalf on the fishermen. The middle men cut it up and sell it in their booths to restaurants or other buyers. We weren’t able to see any tuna auctions because they are only let in about 50 tourists a day.
I am really glad that we got to experience both the sumo wrestling and the fish market. They were very unique and extremely interesting!
P.S. For dinner after sumo we ordered room service, and we both had a good old American cheeseburger with french fries. It hit the spot!
We have a 7 hour flight to Bangkok (Thailand) tomorrow and then a short flight to Chiang Mai (Thailand). Hopefully, there won’t be much delay in posts, but if there is, we’ll catch up in Thailand 🙂
Also, I am so happy to hear from each and every one of you who commented. Even if I don’t reply every time, we are both seeing everything that you write. I promise that we will get pictures of the our beautiful suite in Tokyo posted ASAP!! Thanks everyone!!!! XOXOXO Alyce