So I know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone ... and in this way I was able to get a ticket to see a Sumo match for FREE
I headed over to Ryogoku, which is the Tokyo area famous for everything Sumo related. It is also where the Sumo wrestlers live and where the Sumo matches are held. That entire area is a mini Sumo world full of Sumo shops, Sumo museums, and even Sumo restaurants with big Sumo rinks in the center.
"Hey Jeff, I'm tired of eating chanko-nabe. Let's go wrestle."
The Kokugikan is the name of the stadium where the Sumo matches happen. It seats up to 10,000 people and holds three of the six annual Sumo tournaments per year.
You immediately realize that you're in a Sumo stadium the moment you step inside of the building because the entire perimeter is covered in ginormous pictures of Sumo wrestlers.
Alright! Let's watch some Sumooooo!
♫ "Girl, look at that body..." ♫
I used to think that Sumo was just the Japanese version of America's WWE Smackdown, but apparently, it's completely different. Sumo wrestling has it's roots in the Shinto religion and even today, modern Sumo matches are full of ritual elements. When a wrestler steps onto the rink, he preforms traditional practices like clapping his hands and stomping his feet to drive evil spirits away. There is also a pile of salt on opposite sides for Sumo wrestlers to throw onto the rink for purification.
After completing the rituals, the wrestlers squat in the middle of the rink facing one another, then simultaneously spring up and begin wrestling. Whichever Sumo pushes the other Sumo out of the rink wins. If any part of the Sumo's body, beside his feet, touch the ground, that Sumo loses.
The funny thing is that the preparatory clapping, stomping, and salt throwing last for several minutes, while the fight itself is only a few seconds.
Two Sumos prepare for battle. The guy in the fancy outfit is the referee.
"I will destroy you!" - said one Sumo to the other.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
The entire Sumo event lasted for about five hours. Five whole hours of preparation stomping, clapping, squatting, salt throwing ... and occasional 3 second battles.
At one point, I got a little tired of watching the match from the second floor, so I decided to sneak onto the first floor - where I could see the Sumo wrestlers up close and personal.
Sumo. BIG BIG Sumo.
The spectators on the floor seats who see Sumo wrestlers up close and personal pay $abajillion.00 for their seats. I probably wasn't allowed to be down there, but the good thing about being such a big white foreigner is that if you ever get caught being in a place where you're not supposed to be, you can just say "No hablo Japanese!" and run away. Works every time.
After 5 hours of watching Sumo wrestlers stomp and throw salt, I was ready to call it a day. On my way out of the stadium, however, I was able to make a quick Sumo friend.
BFFs for L!f3.