Wednesday, 17 September 2014

2014 Dohyo Matsuri, Sumo Tournament Opening Ceremony

Last Saturday was the opening ceremony of the current Sumo tournament. There are 6 each year - 3 in Tokyo and 3 in other major Japanese cities. I missed the June one so as soon as the tickets went on sale for this month I was online. Pooch and I are going this weekend so this opening ceremony was a kind of warm up for me! The venue is next to Ryogoku station, which is therefore suitably decked out with the appropriate face cut out.
Face Cut Outs at Ryogoku Station
The venue itself is surrounded by these very brightly coloured flags, fluttering in the breeze.
Queue to get into the Sumo Building
Once we got inside it is a bit like any big stadium - lots of muddy coloured corridors with snack vendors dotted about and then double doors taking you into the main arena. Wow! It was pretty impressive.
Sumo Ring with Shinto Shrine type roof
The roof suspended over the ring resembles a Shinto shrine, emphasising the serious nature of the event. This isn't just fat guys grappling - this is a serious profession with many spiritual elements.
Officials at the Sumo Opening Ceremony
As the place filled up the ringside seats were taken by very serious looking men in dark suits. The presumably less important men (equality, never exactly advanced in japan, has not yet reached Sumo and absolutely everyone involved is male) were cross legged to one side, behind the Priests.
Officials at the Sumo Opening Ceremony
On the other side sat a row of Sumo wrestlers. I would have liked to know how they were chosen but can only speculate.
Wrestlers at the Sumo Opening Ceremony
In all there are 47 training stables which contain roughly 640 wrestlers. The most junior have to get up at 5am and as well as training are servants to the senior ones. Wrestlers of any rank are only allowed to wear traditional japanese yukata and wooden shoes and have to obey a huge slew of rules. According to wikipedia, after one top guy was in a bad car accident they were forbidden from driving their own cars. That might be testicles but it could equally be quite true.

The three Priests processed in and sat down before the ceremony started. The Priest on the far side didn't have his own bit of ceremony to perform and just assisted the senior one.
Priests at Sumo Opening Ceremony
The Priest nearest me was the first to get up and waved the bamboo branches to all four sides of the square and said some things before sitting down again. There was a lot of bowing going on. The two junior Priests wore very beautiful white silk outfits.
Priests at Sumo Opening Ceremony
The bright spotlight over the ring meant they looked very angelic and almost seemed to be glowing. Their hats looked a bit like armadillo shells with black glitter on while the senior guy had an amazing hat - almost egyptian in appearance - which included a part that bent over the top of his head and boinged up and down as he moved.
Main Priest at Sumo Opening Ceremony
He had a bit more colour to his outfit and some beautiful purple pantaloon type things on underneath.
Main Priest at Sumo Opening Ceremony
I was itching to get a better look to see if they were woven, embroidered or printed! His part of the ceremony involved some lengthy chanting and overseeing the blessing of all four corners of the ring and the ring itself, assisted by the other two. Once the Priests had finished there were some big japanese Taiko drums carried around the ring twice by some younger guys.
Drums in Sumo Opening Ceremony
And then just as suddenly as it had started it was over! All that remained was for the crew to fill in a post hole in the middle of the ring and use that huge wooden croquet mallet type thing to smooth and compact the surface.
Sumo Ring Being Resurfaced
Back outside there was a display of some of the trophies given to the winner. The main trophy is pretty impressive and stands about 3 feet high.
Main Sumo Trophy
However, it isn't just the one trophy. Coca Cola gives a huge silver coke bottle. The Czech Republic gives a large crystal bowl. Lots of people give other bits and bobs. Everything in the case represents the trophies for just this tournament (I think - possibly for the year. It's difficult to be certain when all the labels are in japanese.)
Sumo Trophies
It all adds up to a prize more like Supermarket Sweep than the FA Cup.

After a quick look around the onsite Museum (no photos allowed) we had a tour of some local Stables. These ranged from the quite impressive...
Sumo Training Stable in Tokyo
(Sneaky peak inside until the wrestlers saw a group of about 40 Gaijen peering in and closed the doors)
Peak inside a Sumo Training Stable in Tokyo ones that looked more like a Scout Hut.
Sumo Training Stable in Tokyo
I have oodles of Sumo facts to share but I am going to save those for when I blog about the actual wrestling. I am really excited to be going!


Ruth said...

Thanks for sharing this. I will probably never go to a sumo wrestling match, so I'm getting a vicarious thrill from reading your blog.

I think I need to go to Japan!

Ynot said...

This is just so cool!! I too will probably never see Sumo wrestling in person (and probably will never get to visit Japan). Reading your blog posts is like having an insider's tour. I love it!

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