Real men wear thongs
Tokyo Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
June 24th, 2007 – by: DaisyCrazyMarie
Finding the right box in the huge crowd would have been quite an ordeal for me if it weren'tÂ for the expert guide of our waitstaff. Spectators with ground level seating meet up with their waitstaff in the service section of the sumo hall, a corridor with rows of individual shopsÂ or Â â€śhousesâ€ť numbered 1 through 20. The house from which you pick up your food and waitstaff is determined by the number on the back of your ticket. I was rather fond of our sixty-something waitstaff, so agile and energetic as he carried off our food and zig-zagged his way through the crowd.
The food was a quintessentially Japanese bento-box affair, complete with plenty of rice, teriyaki chicken cutlets, baked fish and pickles. While the food tasted rather bland the whole meal was quite voluminous by Japanese standards, withÂ extra helpings of Â fried snacks, ice-cream and alcohol you can order.Â It all went down quite nicely with the rivers of sake and beers that kept on flowing. The strange thing was, everybody seemed to be eating different food, and I found out that each â€śhouseâ€ť serves slightly different bento boxes. Â
By that time I could feel that the entire hall was steeped in long-held traditions and rituals. While a tournament goes on for 15 days, each day is structured so that the high ranking wrestlers go last, thereby building up the tension considerably.
Since the game I went to see was the very last bout of the tournament, obviously the crowd went wild. The showdown was between the two Mongolian sumo wrestlers, the reigningÂ Asashoryu andÂ Hakuho, the young aspirant for the championship title. I never really paid attention to sumo wrestling on TV, but I was quite taken aback by how nimble, quick and powerful the tactics employed by the giant competitors were. Unlike other stadium tournaments where you can look away in search of that missing bag of popcorn during the game, each bout of sumo is lightning quick, and you will miss the throw-down and the trick maneuvers if you let your focusÂ wane for too long. The connection and affection you develop with each of the big-bellied sumo wrestlers that rise up on the ring, I believe, is akin to boxing.
The most exciting ritual that spectators observe at sumo wrestling isÂ cushion throwing. Whenever the spectators like (or hate) what they see or are genuinely excited by that great attack or play, they startÂ having whatÂ looks like a pillow fight Â to express their appreciationÂ or anger. The crowds began throwing the cushions in utter frenzy whenÂ Hakuho won, and I got hit in the face by a few cushions thrown my way by somebody's drunken grandpa seated behind me. Â
The ground level tickets are expensive, but as sumo bouts donâ€™t take up a whole lot of space, I think the whole experience will be compromised somewhat if witnessed from the second floor. Besides, the ground level seating come with souveniors--bags after bags full of bento boxes, rice crackers, drinks and snacks--which took my family about four weeks to consume. Yet no matter where you will be seated, watching a few rounds of sumo is well worth it; itâ€™s a sure way into the heart of one of the quirkiest and graceful Japanese tradition.
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