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Sumo fever and the Tokyo nightlife

Tokyo Travel Blog

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The poor panda in its bathroom-style area

I arrived in Tokyo late on Thursday and shoe-horned myself into the tokyo metro to make my way to my hostel located in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.  It's actually quite a way out of town but the hostel was the sister one to that which I stayed in Kyoto and as I had such a good time there I had decided to spend four of my five nights in Tokyo in this one.  However, I hadn't remembered to write down the exact location - I had just drawn a vague location on the map in my lonely planet and this caused quite a few problems when it came to actually finding the place!  I walked right past it and only saw it by chance as I retraced my steps frantically searching for my bed.

Big cats on the prowl

Having checked in and sorted out my bed I went to sit in the lounge and wait to see what turned up.  Very soon I got talking to four other travellers - two girls from Canada and two guys from the UK.  I mentioned to them that I was hoping to go to the sumo tournament the next day as it was still going on and suggested whether any of them would like to join me.  They all seemed very keen so we agreed to meet in the lounge the next morning at 8.30am to go and buy tickets.

Next morning I woke up very early as my bed was freezing!  The heater hadn't been put on and whilst it probably wasn't a problem for most of the room my bed was next to the window and it seemed to let in most of the cold air despite being shut tight!  For the rest of the week I noticed that my bed seemed to be 4 or 5 degrees colder than all the others - just bad luck I guess!  We headed off to the sumo arena which was located not too far on the metro from our hostel at a stop called Ryogoko.

A big silverback gorilla resting in the shade.
  Having purchased some fairly good but not too expensive seats we went our separate ways, planning on meeting up in the arena before 2.30pm to watch the best action of the day until 6pm.

I went with the two guys to Tokyo zoo which isn't too big and easy to walk around in a couple of hours.  They have quite a variety of animals there in various standards of accomodation.  I felt most sorry for the giant panda as it seemed to be living within what could only be described as a bathroom with all the terracotta tiles lining it!  The big cats and gorillas were very impressive, as was the monkey that was enjoying lazily pleasuring itself in full view of the excitable public!  My favourite animal name however has to be the "Jackass penguin".

After grabbing some lunch in the zoo we left and began to make our way back to the sumo arena, stopping briefly on the way to watch an amazingly skilled street act where a guy was carefully balancing all manner of objects on his head and throwing them all over the place before catching them with various parts of his body without any problems at all - it was very impressive.

One of the impressives moves we saw this street act performing

The sumo stadium is an impressive sight, reminiscent in some ways of the traditional hairstyles sported by the top sumo wrestlers.  The roof is covered in what I presume is copper and for an indoor stadium it is pretty huge.  Once you get inside you aren't disappointed either - the atmosphere in the arena was amazing, especially for the later fights.  The 5 of us bought some beers and settled down in our seats to watch the action unfold.  We quickly began to start betting between each other over the winners of each bout.  Watching the ritualised build up to each fight was fascinating, with both wrestlers attempting to gain the psychological advantage over the other.  There is no set starting time to each fight, only that they must start within 4 minutes of walking into the ring for the first time.

The Mukuuchi (top division) sumo wrestlers in their ceremonial entrance
  Because of this much of the time is spent crouching down to fight only to get up again and walk away, perhaps gesturing to the crowd to get them going.  When the fight starts, with a barely perceptible touch of knuckles on ground before the launch themselves at each other, it can be over quite quickly.  The crowd bay at their favourites and you can't help but get caught up in the excitement of the action, especially after a couple of beers!

By far the best fights of the day came in the last few bouts.  In one the respected sumo wrestler was struggling against a much bigger opponent and three times he was almost pushed out of the ring but somehow he managed to hang on each time, before landing the killer move and throwing his opponent to the ground.  In another one it was a titanic tactical battle which went on for a long time before the respected sumo wrestler managed to force his opponent out of the ring.

Asashoryu struggles to stay in the ring against his opponent Kotomitsuki. Asashoryu goes on to win this bout.
  Once it was finished we filtered out of the sumo stadium and back to the hostel where we met up with yet more backpackers to launch a night out in Shibuya.

Shibuya is a bustling place at all times of the night, and that evening as we looked for a bar selling food it was no different.  There were many pub touts on the street attempting to lure you into their establishment and we finally chose one and all fifteen of us sat down in a private booth and ordered traditional japanese pub fare: yakitori, kochin, miso-pork, fish dishes etc. and all you can drink for 1500 yen.  This place didn't have an english menu either but suggesting to the waiter what you wanted was usually understood and two of us managed to successfully order popular dishes for everyone else.

The five of us pose for a photo just outside the entrance to the sumo arena.

After everyone felt satiated it was time to move on.  Some of us went on to a nightclub but a few of us (myself included) felt that this was where Tokyo was perhaps not so great - these places were very expensive just to get into.  Walking around the backstreets of Shibuya also ellicited some rather interesting suggestions - mainly involving sex.  We decided to call it a night and get back to our hostel which was a long way away on the other side of the city.  Another Tokyo problem is that public transport shuts down at about midnight so the only option is a taxi ride, which turned out to be very expensive.  Basically if you go out and want to be out until after 12 then you may as well stay out until the metro starts again as it will cost you almost 8000 yen (£40) to get back from Shibuya to Asakasa!

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The poor panda in its bathroom-sty…
The poor panda in its bathroom-st…
Big cats on the prowl
Big cats on the prowl
A big silverback gorilla resting i…
A big silverback gorilla resting …
One of the impressives moves we sa…
One of the impressives moves we s…
The Mukuuchi (top division) sumo w…
The Mukuuchi (top division) sumo …
Asashoryu struggles to stay in the…
Asashoryu struggles to stay in th…
The five of us pose for a photo ju…
The five of us pose for a photo j…
The five of us at the world famous…
The five of us at the world famou…
A flock of flamingoes at Tokyo zoo
A flock of flamingoes at Tokyo zoo
The graceful rhino
The graceful rhino
Jackass penguins?  Didnt see them…
Jackass penguins? Didn't see the…
The monkey caught on camera enjoyi…
The monkey caught on camera enjoy…
The tiger was very interested in t…
The tiger was very interested in …
The sumo wrestler Hakuho shows his…
The sumo wrestler Hakuho shows hi…
Tokyo
photo by: maka77