I’ve been to watch the sumo wrestling championship in Ryogoku, Tokyo today. Everything else I’ve seen in Tokyo fails in comparison to how weird the past three hours have been.
I queued up this morning at 7am to get my ticket. This allowed me entrance from 8am until 6pm – I decided to wait until 2pm, when the big deals came on. And boy were they big. I’d not seen even a chubby person during my entire week in Tokyo and then these guys come out in their little belts, with just a ribbon over their bum crack. What a delight for those on the front row when they crouched down.
What is sumo wrestling?
With my 2,200Y ticket I had no idea where I was meant to sit so just went chair hopping on the best seats until I was booted off. Watching those guys battle it out made me hungry so in between one particular chair migration I decided to grab a beer and some beef jerky to make it through the second hour.
I hadn’t a clue what was going on, and decided to leave it that way and just enjoy the spectacle for what it was. Bonkers.
As far as I can tell sumo wrestling is a lot of thigh slapping, crouching, stomping around and dramatically throwing chalk up into the air. Every so often they decided to ‘wrestle’ which was just them pushing against each other until one of them stumbled out of the ring. I’m sure my brother and I used to do that when we were little, we didn’t start calling ourselves ‘sumo wrestlers’. Each ‘bout’ only lasted for a few seconds because as soon as they got a body part that wasn’t their feet on the floor, or they fell out of the ring, it was game over.
Rumour has it that sumo wrestlers eat 20,000 calories a day – wow. No wonder they needed to stop for a refreshment after stomping a leg or two.
My top sumo wrestling audience tip
Word of warning for you, don’t sit on the front row as not only do you get ‘too much information’ when they do their whole crouching sequence, you may also get a sumo wrestler in your lap when they topple over the side of the ring squashing anyone in their path.
It was a fun crowd with everyone shouting out and even laughing when they got pushed out. There were obviously some firm favourites among the sumo wrestlers as when they all came on at the end of their time slot some were cheered a lot more than others.
In between the matches a finely dressed gentleman would come out with a fan and start singing to introduce the next fight. Apparently you could get some sort of earphone contraption to explain exactly what was happening, but I only found that out after I’d left.
It was fun, it was an experience, but I think three hours of sumo is enough for my lifetime.