Recently, I went to watch a big Sumo tournament in Fukuoaka. It was one of my favourite experiences in Japan so far! Rich in ceremony and tradition the whole day felt uniquely Japanese and was fascinating to watch.
Before bouts, the Sumos sit at the side of the ring. They look a bit like an overgrown baby, sitting with their legs prostrate to the floor whilst being doted on by pretty Japanese girls. This is followed by a throng of pre-fight rituals- bellies are slapped resonantly and sand is ceremoniously thrown around the ring.
Although a bit tubby, the wrestlers are surprisingly fit and agile- navigating nimble footed as they try to dump their opponents out of the ring. Contrary to what I previously thought, the fattest man does not always win! Indeed, the champion, Hahuko, isn’t the biggest- he sent his opponent sprawling out the ring, the people in the front row narrowly avoiding an undignified death: squashed by a man in a nappy.
This picture was taken outside the stadium; a couple of sumo’s waiting patiently for the bus- off to wander the bars and restaurants in town still donning their robe, wooden sandals and Sumo bun hairstyles. No matter your clothes, I suppose it must be difficult to be an inconspicuous Sumo.