Day 12 - Shrines And Sumo
Tokyo Travel Blog› entry 12 of 12 › view all entries
September 13th, 2009 – by: tommylennie
Arriving at Harajuku, I made my way to the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park, following the crowds of tourists that were there in force. Walking through the huge Torii(Japanese Gate) that leads to the complex, I was glad to get in the shade of the trees that enveloped the road to Shinto shrine dedicated to Emporer Meiji and his wife.
Swinging past Harajuku again in the hope of seeing more Cosplayers, I was a little disappointed to find that there wasn't a single one there as yet. No worries though, as I was now on my way to Ryogoku for the opening day of the Grand Sumo tournament! Arriving at about 2pm, I strolled up to the Kokugikan arena just in time to see some massive wrestlers turning up via taxi! The tournament had been underway since around 9am and was now getting into full swing as the Makuuchi wrestlers were now arriving.
I had banked on getting a general admission ticket but I was too late as they were all sold out and I had to fork out around £35 for a better seat. Once inside the arena, I couldn't believe just how huge the place actually is. On T.V you see the small ring, but the whole arena stretches back far and high, with many seats up on a balcony. And this is where my seat was. The best and most expensive seats, were actually ringside tatami mats. There were hundreds of them, so many in fact, that only a handful were actually ringside! Some were single mats, whilst others catered for whole families whom had made themselves comfortable watching the bouts as they tucked into their picnics!
As the arena was fairly empty to begin with, I stole a seat close to the balcony edge for optimal views of the ring.
Each Sumo enters the ring at different corners, and the rituals begin. Salt is thrown into the ring to purify the arena, the stamping we all know about is to quash the bad spirits and they sip water to purify their bodies. This is done 2 or 3 times before they actually go for it, slapping and grabbing in an attempt to conquer their rival. Exilarating stuff. I witnessed some epic bouts, with wrestlers hanging on for dear life as they are inches from being pushed out the ring, whilst others were thrown to the ground within the ring.
Soon, the crowd favourite enters the ring. I could tell he was the favourite as the audience went wild. Despite the rituals of Sumo, the crowd is more akin with football or baseball, as they chant and shout for their Sumo heroes. This particular protaganist was such a crowd pleaser, grunting and slapping his chest, as well as throwing salt far beyond the ring and in to the ringside seats! My favourite bout however, involved a smaller wrestler literally throwing his bigger opponent right out of the ring and onto a hapless photographer, sending them both sprawling along with the camera.
The afternoon had zipped by so quickly and the days Sumo ended, and I had yet another Japanese experience I'll never forget. For my last night I treated myself to, yes you guessed it, Kare Raisu for dinner.
I awoke the next day with a lump in my throat at the prospect of leaving a city that I totally love and made my way to the airport. The flight back was once again excellent with Virgin and it flew by as I watched 5 films back to back! Landing back in Britain, I was brought down to earth with an almighty thud as I sought out some help on the London underground.
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