On Saturday, January 16th, I attended the first major sumo event of the year in Japan. I have been hooked on the sport since attending my first tournament last Silver Week. While in Japan, I hope to attend as many matches as possible. This competition proved to be just as exciting, if not more, than my previous experience.
The first time I went, I was only able to see the early morning, low level, matches, but this time, I saw the top end, late afternoon matches at the Ryogoku. I was amazed by the difference in skill between low level and high level fighters.
For those of you who don’t know anything about Sumo, let me explain the basic principles of the sport. Winners are determined by a) the first wrestler to force his opponent to step out of the ring or b) the first wrestler to force his opponent to touch the ground with any part of his body other than the bottom of his feet. Usually this leads to very short matches. Despite the shortness of the bouts, some of the most exciting parts of sumo are what happens before they wrestle. Many of the higher end matches involve opponents facing each other, doing their best to stare each other down, or demonstrating their prowess by flexing, showcasing various sumo poses, all in hopes of intimidating the other. Seeing which one of the two will flinch first in a stare-down can be just as amusing as watching the actual match.
This does not mean that the matches were not exciting in their own right. While there were a lot of ring force outs (just pushing your opponent out of the ring, something I saw a lot of in the low level matches), some matches ended with some amazing throws and one match saw a wrestler lift his opponent and drop him just outside of the ring. Now that’s power!
I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to witness the first matches of the year. For anyone who has not yet gone to see sumo, I highly recommend it. Not only is it an amazing sport, but it is truly something that is uniquely Japanese. It’s a great way to learn about Japanese culture.