16.02.2007 5 °C
It started in a Bar around 2am. The British girls, 2 wild young lasses from England, were drinking in [es] with me and through the drunken haze, the spontaneous notion of catching some tradition Japanese sport was born.
We had arranged to met at 12pm. I was left standing outside the department store, a cold breeze whipping my hair back and forth before I decided to call them.
Where the hell are you?
"Oh. Sorry. We just woke up. Come over" I headed back up the road. As the door was answered, a half dressed girl straining in the afternoon light answered the door. I waited in their living room and after an hour they were ready. We headed into Namba.
They grabbed my arm as we approached the convenience store to buy some drinks for the show. We weren't sure if they served alcohol or not but better to be drunk then sorry. I guess this sumo had the same idea.
Large colourful banners lined the outside of the gymnasium where the event was being help; their brilliant display and soft wave in the breeze failed to be captured by my mobile phone camera as the light drifted from the day.
People lined the street and entrance waiting for the sumo. As cars, van and taxi pulled up, people tussled to take photos of their heroes entering the stadium.
A security guard at the ticket booth welcomed the chance to practise English and talk about his beloved sport as we debated our seating options. Finally we choose some towards the back, so that we could take in the stadium and could have seats. The seats towards the front we merely little squares on cushions and the prospect of 4 foreigners squeezing in, sitting crossed legged and drinking for the next 4 hours seemed a little awkward.
Our tickets came with a simple booklet outlining the history of the sport from in roots 8 AD, through the variation of the day and Emperors whims to the noble modern art. It talked of the sand/clay mix of the dohyō and the rice string bales or tawara which formed the ring of combat built new for every tournament
Soon the matches begin. Large men entered the ring, grabbed a handful of salt and tossed it across the ring. Often, they would approach the shikiri-sen, the two centred white lines marking their starting point face-off, squatting in preparation before backing off for another handful of salt. It was difficult to tell wether this was a tactic used to throw their opponents, a friendly pre-match mind game or the chance to show their respect for the game and rituals it entailed. These near starts often went on 6 or 7 times before both of them would finally bow, squat and collide with a massive force, hands wildly slapping each other. In Sumo, the loser is the first one to touch the ground, or move beyond the ring and the battles were almost always over within 10 seconds. A respectful bow is given by both participants before the next contenders enter.
As the day progressed, the more talented and higher ranked the wrestlers were; as were the more empty wine and beer bottles at our feet. The day finally ended, and after a quick sweep through the souvenir shops, we staggered out into the fresh night air and head for some traditional food from our own cultures; after the alcohol McDonalds never tasted so good.