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Report 13 Juni 4, 2008

Posted by Izabela in 1.
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So,finally,here it comes:The article about the Sumo Basho on May,the 18th,at the Kokugikan in Tokyo.

The Kokugikan Hall (which can accomodate about 10.000 visitors) can be found near the Ryogoku Station. This area is also known as „Sumo City“ because of its over 300 years of sumo-history and many known sumostables located there.

Actually I would have started at precisely 8 o’clock,in the morning,so, in order to get there on time,I would have had to awake at

5.40 o’clock in the morning,go by foot to Motokaji and take next train to Ikebukuro (the ride is about 1,5 hours in one direction). As I spent the day before that in Akihabara buying myself a new photocamera I,of course,did not make it on time.

But that was ok,because, who would really like to spend 12 hours watching Sumo non-stop?

So,I arrived there at about 1 pm.

I don’t want to bother You by an explanation about Sumo.Most people identify it with morbidly obese men trying to push each other out of a rice-straw circle.Actually,there’s much more to it. I will not recaptitulate the history of sumo because I think it is rather well explained here,if You want to know more:
http://www.scgroup.com/sumo/faq/

To find the way to the Doyo wasn’t hard at all as it is practically next to the trainstation.There are also signs,as well,like this one:

Sign

If You follow the road to the left You also find several memorial sculptures of

famous Yokozuna (including their handprints!) on each side of the street

(actually,there are 7 of these,if I didn’t miss any…):

Like here... here.... and here....

here... also here... and here.

ugikan is pretty hard,especially when there are huge crowds of people all heading in the same direction:

Pretty hard to get through here...

So,what’s the Kokugikan Hall like? You probably haven’t had the chance to actually see a real one so here are a few pictures to give You a general idea:

Outside the Kokugikan Hall

Let’s draw a little bit nearer…

From this wooden tower the sound of a traditional Japanese drum was announcing the beginning of the tournament Not as small as it looked from far away

Two small Shinto shrines located in front of the Kokugikan

Wallpainting

Second wallpainting near the main entrance

When I arrived at the Kokugikan crowds of people were standing at the entrance without making any move whatsoever to get to their seats (if they had tickets at all,that is…)
Here is why:

I myself saw Asashoryu (Yokozuna (east)),except that he did not walk but arrived in a white limo and caused a major ruckus by just showing up.

Seems that Sumotori (Sumo wrestlers) have their own brand of „groupies“ :-D,like these:

Fans waiting outside the hall to show support for their favourite Sumotori

When I finally checked in the employee looked quickly at me and handed me an English program with all matches scheduled for that day:
Foreigners welcome!
I have to admit that I even used it half of the time ….Reading Japanese names can sometimes be very tricky. But,enough of that,let’s hurry,or else we’ll be late 😀

View from my place

This wasn’t the most expensive seat you could get (of course,if you are willing to pay 500 (!) Euro or so you can sit right next to where the actions happens) but it was a really good one to watch from.The funny thing is, I you don’t mind standing (and trust me,after getting used to stand for 1 hour non-stop on a train during rush-hours you don’t) you can have the same viewas someone who paid 15000 Yen because it is not prohibited to stand at the entrance doors as long as you don’t pose an obstacle to anyone whatsoever.

On each of the four walls you can see life-size portraits of past Yokozunas,if I‘ m not totally mistaken:

Great Yokozuna of the past

As You might already have noticed the hall isn’t filled,not yet. Most people will arrive later, when the upper-rank Sumotori matches will start (at about 4 o’clock pm). These are the ones you can enjoy f.e on Eurosports.

So I did,what most people do: I went outside and explored what else there is to do besides watching Sumo all day long.

This is were I met one of the many foreign fans that were there on that day.We first spoke in English,than he asked me were I am from (I’m a Pole from Cracow and German citizen).

To my surprise he’s a Half-Pole from Britain and so we continued in Polish.

He is also one of the editor’s for a very fine Sumo online magazin:

http://www.sumofanmag.com/

(honestly,if You want to be on the current about anything Sumo,than this is Your place!)

What else is there to do besides meeting other fans?

You can buy yourself something to eat/drink (600 Yen for a 0,5l can of Sapporo beer…is this the freaking Oktoberfest in Munich?!),something to commemorate your visit,like this here:

WHY?!

or take pictures with Sumotori you run into ,like I did:

Although he did not reach the maegashira (higher) ranks he\'s one of the most popular Japanese Sumo wrestlers and,besides that,a really nice guy

My hight is 177 cm...

Yes,that’s right: After their matches there are many Sumo wrestlers who will be walking around f.e outside and take pictures with fans or answer their questions. I guess it’s,besides beeing fun, a kind of advertisement for themselves and a way to gain a solid fan base.

When the day is coming to an end and the top matches take place the main hall gets really crowded.
First, there is the „dojoiri“ (the entrance ceremony,one for the east section,one for the west section,please notice the ancient-style sponsor advertisment at its end :-))

Then,there are the main matches,like this ones:

This one was that day’s record holder:39 seconds!

Sometimes the wrestlers prepare themselve for 2-3 minutes (propably a kind of psychological warfare to intimidate the opponent) and the actual match last for 7-25 seconds but that’s what I like about it,you don’t have to wait for all eternity to know the winner,unlike Football,which bores me to watch.

And now,to the top main event:Yokozuna (east)-Asashoryu against Yokozuna (west)-Hakushoushou (both are Mongolian,by the way)

ending with a special dance by Asahoryu. As far as I know the history of it dated back to the second half of the 16th century when a sumotori recieved 180 Koku (1 Koku=180 litres of rice,probably worth a lot of money back than) for his victory from Oda Nobunaga (or under his reign,I’m not sure) and was so happy about it that he grabbed a bow and performed a dance which remained as a tradition until this very day.

Before we leave the Kokugikan,let’s have a quick look at the empty hall:

Empty....

and the trophy exposition:

Trophies

As we still have time before the next train in direction to Shinjuku leaves let

me show You the secret of sumo-style weight gain.

Most people would propably guess something like this:

But there actually is a much healthier,tastier,more Japanese-style to gain weight,called:

Chanko

Chanko(nabe) is a special soup which,when eaten in large quantities,

can lead to weight-gain (the less you additionaly move the more).

If You want to try it for yourselves,here’s a receipt:

http://www.soupsong.com/rchankon.html

I did not try it that day because all restaurants offering it were overcrowded and a huge pile of homework was waiting for me back home.

So,after a quick visit to the nearby Buddhist temple (photos of which will be uploaded later cause Photobucket is somewhat slow..) I returned home and spend the next 3 hours writing essays in Japanese.

In conclusion, if I had the chance to see another Sumobasho live,I wouldn’t want to miss it at any cost and so should You!

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