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Day 12 - Shrines And Sumo

Tokyo Travel Blog

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Meiji Shrine
Sadly, my time in Japan had almost come to an end. Today was my last 24 hours in what has become my favourite country on the planet. I felt gutted already, even though it was over a day until my flight departing the land of the rising sun. Therefore, I awoke early, in attempt to make the most of my remaining time. After a quick bite to eat and a wander around Shibuya, I made my way to Harajuku, to get a look at the Cosplayers again and to see the Meiji Shrine.

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.
Meiji Shrine
Empress Shoken. Once at the inner complex, I wandered around the numerous buildings and was lucky enough to see a wedding ceremony in full swing. The bride was led along a route within the shrine, whilst the wedding party followed suit. The bride wore very traditional looking attire, yet everyone else seemed to dress in very Western clothes. Absolutely fascinating to see. There were in fact, I estimate, about 2 or 3 other weddings taking place atthe shrine today, and really made the visit worthwhile.

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.
Sumo!
The Makuuchi are from the highest division of wrestlers and, as I was soon to find out, are the crowd favourites.

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.
Grand Sumo Tournament
This is where I met Wendy, an american girl of Chinese descent, who was doing the same as me. We had to move a couple of times throughout the afternoon as more and more people began taking their seats. Just before 4pm, the Yokozuna Grand Champions entered the ring for their ceremonial entrance and this signalled the start of the Makuuchi bouts.

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.
Grand Sumo Tournament


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.
Grand Sumo Tournament
My final few hours was dedicated to my favourite past time of people watching around Shibuya, before I had to pack my bags and watch the Sumo highlights on the T.V! However, just before I fell asleep I had yet another Japanese experience, a little earthquake. As I began to drift off, there was a sudden rumble and the bed shook for about 4-5 seconds. I initally thought it might be a train going past, but I was 9 floors up and not that close to a train line. I doubled checked on an earthquake records website once I was back and it confirmed that I had been present through a 4.3 earthquake!

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.
Grand Sumo Tournament
I asked one of the workers for some directions and he looked at me like I had just pissed on his kids, before grumpily and reluctantly advising me! Ah well, occurences like this will only strengthen my desire to return Japan, sooner rather than later. I loved every single second I was there and can't recommend it highly enough. So yeah, massive thumbs up for Tokyo and it's people. I hope I've persuaded anyone reading this blog to see this amazing country. Ja mata ne.
hermandelaserna says:
This blog really made me miss Tokyo. Having been there twice (2009 and Feb 2012), I still crave for another return visit, hopefully in Dec 2013.

You will definitely fall in love with everything Tokyo has to offer and leave with a burning desire to return for another visit.

Cheers Tommy, for bringing back great memories of my trips there. Arrigato gozaimasu!
Posted on: Nov 02, 2012
ellechic says:
did you get to see a slam, tommy?
Posted on: Nov 03, 2009
littlemissadventure says:
Great photos Tommy! Mags
Posted on: Oct 27, 2009
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Shibuya
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91 km (57 miles) traveled
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photo by: maka77