I know it could be considered cheating for me to have included so many Tokyo specific items on my 35 Before 35 list knowing that I would be traveling to Tokyo this year, but we’d already put off the trip for so long by this point that it does still feel appropriate to me. And while chronologically “Go To Tokyo” might seem like the most logical first step in this series, many of the other 35 Before 35 events could all be covered in one post, attending a sumo basho was definitely unique enough to warrant its own post.
We’d actually planned our trip to Tokyo around this year’s autumn basho (tournament), even though we knew we would only get to one day of wrestling. It was the right day for it too as I was still recovering from some mild food poisoning from the night before (on a side-note, dealing with such an affliction with only access to traditional style toilettes is definitely an adventure, to say the least), so sitting on my ass for 4+ hours was actually a perfect way to spend the day.
We splashed out and got some upper-tier seats, which were probably more comfortable than the floor box seats since those were actually cushions on the floor. We also loaded up on goodies and trinkets in the arena lobby, including some good-luck charms from a man who said I looked like Audrey Hepburn. Talk about compliments!
We’d gotten to the arena rather early, so we watched a few preliminary matches and tried to figure out the rules, which was actually pretty easy since they basically boil down to “don’t bite, don’t punch.” Almost anything else goes as you either try to push your opponent out of the ring, or get him to fall down before you do.
Before the tournament starts all the wrestlers for that class come out in a row and are introduced one by one as they arrange themselves around the edge of the ring. The they do a series of moves that kind of look like the Hokey-Pokey that involves waving their flag-skirt thing and clapping. Wrestlers are divided into East and West, so to make things interesting Rick decided to root for the East wrestlers because he is from eastern Canada and I took the West wrestlers because I come from the West.
The referee starts each match and declares the winner. Most matches were over in a matter of seconds, but there were a few fights that went into minutes. Each winner was awarded an envelop and some stayed by the ring to feed water to the next wrestler water. Rick quickly lost patience with how much time was spent almost starting a fight, especially considering how short most of the fights were. But I’m pretty sure he had a great time regardless.
There was also some great people watching. This guy seemed to be a judge or dignitary of some sort. I’m pretty sure he slept through most of the tournament. There was also a guy in gold top hat with a Japanese flag on it, but I never managed to get a picture of him.
Hot dude on dude action. You’d be surprised how flexible and athletic these guys actually are. Often a much smaller guy could win a fight against a giant guy just by using his low center of gravity to his advantage. Agility and balance are definitely more important than brute force.