Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Sunday at Ryogoku

Conversation last Sunday.

T-chan: Okaeri, you're back late.
Me: Un, I went to Ryogoku for the Senshuraku, and then got invited to a hasami-ire party afterwards at one of the stables.
T-chan: Oh, thats nice.
T-chan: Wait, WHAT!?!

To clarify, my boss is a huge sumo fan (pun not intended). She travels all over Japan to see the big matches, and is friends with several rikishi and sumo stable owners. She is too shibui for words.

Last Sunday was Senshuraku, which is the final big match after the major 15 day tournament, where all the famous wrestlers appeared,  with the awards ceremony for the winner at the end. This year the winner was the famous Baruto, who is Estonian. It was amazing to hear the crowd call out for him and praise him, even though he is not Japanese :)


My boss invited two business associates to come along to the match, and we shared one of the little private booths, a stones throw from the ring. As thanks, I made snacks for everyone.

It was amazing to be so close to the action, and despite my initial skepticism (come on, two huge guys throwing themselves at each other? really?) I throughly enjoyed it. The matches go from 8 am to 6pm, with the highest ranking wrestlers at the end. Showing up around 1pm to lounge, drink sake and talk with your friends, while observing some of the new up-and-comers, is all very iki (chic)... elegant, and somehow belonging to a different time.

It was fascinating to see that about half of the ozeki (high ranking wrestlers) are from other countries. Mongolians are de riguer, but there was also a series of Eastern Europeans, and a very muscular, trim Czech rikishi. I was really taken by the cool, colourful advertisement banners, which became more and more frequent as the final match approached.

Also, these guys are tall! Many are around 1.90m... perhaps I should start looking around for retired sumo dudes... How do I know they are that tall? Oh well, you know, by hanging out at a retirement party for a wrestler at one of my boss's favorite stables... and participating in the hasami-ire, where they have their top-knot cut, to show they are no longer an active wrestler. This was all very surreal. And delicious, as we got to eat chanko nabe prepared and served by some of the wrestlers. So, so good!

If you ever have the chance to see sumo up close, I thoroughly recommend it. It is a fascinating world, as well as a great excuse to have a couple of glasses of good sake in the early afternoon!


  1. sounds like u had a fab time :D
    i love sumo wrestling!

  2. I was surprised by how many female fans there were. It really is fun!

  3. That's so cool sounding! I've never been to a Sumo match before. :)

    And OMG the top guy is Estonian!? I feel some mother-land pride now I know that (I am half Estonian).

  4. It is surprisingly fun(^_^)
    Baruto is really popular, you should tell your Estonian relatives about him!

  5. Yay Baruto!!! Isn't sumo GREAT?! And you got to sit up close!!! I had so much fun when I went. Did you buy any crazy awesome merchandise?