Tuesday, January 26, 2010

... and sumo of course!

Believe it or not, Liz has a guest columnist for her blog. On Sunday, January 24th, I went to Tokyo for the finals of the sumo matches. LtJG Amanda Dillinger works with me as an Industrial Hygiene Officer. Back in early December, MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) placed an announcement that tickets would be going on sale for the sumo event. Amanda and I talked about going and the next day, she went to pick up tickets. But all the tickets were sold so she placed her name on the waiting list for 6 tickets. Back in early January, she heard that they got more tickets and we would be going.

Before I go on about the trip, let me explain more about sumo. The Japanese take a lot of foreign influences and put their own twist and make it theirs, but sumo is truly Japanese. According to Japanese legend, the very origin of the Japanese race depended on the outcome of a sumo match. The supremacy of the Japanese people on the islands of Japan was supposedly established when the god, Takemikazuchi, won a sumo bout with the leader of a rival tribe. Apart from legend, however, sumo is an ancient sport dating back some 1500 years. The sumo ring is called a dohyo and takes its name for the straw rice bag which marks out its different parts. The dohyo is 18 feet square and 2 feet high and is constructed of special kind of clay. A bout is won by forcing the opponent out of the inner circle or throwing him in the dohyo.

On Sunday, we took the bus from the base to Tokyo. Amanda and I were joined by another Lt. from our Department with her girls, the Commander of the destroyer USS Curtis Wilber, and his son and a Lt. Commander from a carrier, the USS George Washington, and his family.

When we arrived a Kokugikan Arena, there were sumo wrestlers arriving, big guys, and colorful banners proclaiming names of individual wrestlers. You can see they decorate the wall with all sorts of art. We entered through an area of 20 tea-house establishments marked by red lanterns, pretty cool.

When we entered the arena, there were matches in progress. These matches were the minor leaguers. The really big and better wrestlers come later in the afternoon. Each match lasts only 5 minutes or so, with most of the time being spent in formalized rituals. The bouts themselves last from 10 to 120 seconds, but the matches are not delayed after one bout finishes, the next starts right away.

Amanda and I had made bets on the outcome of each match (Bruno, you'll like this one). The loser buys lunch. Of course, I won. Speaking of lunch, one of our group found out there was a lunch area serving a dish called sumo soup, based on what the wrestlers eat. It has veggies and lots of meat and seafood, for only 250 yen (about $2.75). It was a great deal.

Following the minor leagues, the major leagues were a site to see. These guys were BIG, and not just fat. The bouts were fast and furious.

The last two fighters were the best of the best, and the winner was awarded the Emperor's Cup. Besides the Cup, he received 6 or 7 other trophies.

They practically showered him with awards which included flags, trophies and exceptional vases. All in all, what an experience. Maybe Liz will attend the next one, but I doubt it.

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