The Grand Sumo Tournament was held in Aichi Prefectorial Gymnasium
Sophia University's school semester had been shortened by two weeks because of Tokyo's efforts to conserve electricity during the summer. Thus, blessed with two extra weeks after final exams, I went to Nagoya for 3 days to relax and watch some sumo! For those who want to learn more about the rules and history of sumo, the Nihon Sumo website has an informative beginner's guide here
The Grand Sumo Tournament is held throughout the year in different prefectures in Japan. This year, it is held in Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka in spring, summer and winter respectively. I had missed my chance to watch it in Tokyo due to poor planning, but I would not make the same mistake twice! @_@
I woke up at 7am and went to the Nagoya Aichi Prefectorial Gymnasium at 8am to buy tickets. Even then, there was a queue forming at the ticket booths. Ticket prices ranged from extremely expensive box seats (¥20,000++) to cheap, unreserved freeseating at the back (¥2800). Thrifty ol' me naturally purchased the cheapest seats.
At about 8.40am, the sumo bouts started, but there was literally a dearth of spectators. I garnered from the brochure that the early bouts were all low-level fights and that the high level fights didn't start until 2.30pm in the afternoon. Therefore, I took the time to go have lunch and visit Nagoya Castle, which was just around the corner of the Aichi Gymnasium. More about the castle later.
Sure enough, when I returned at 2.30, the stadium was packed and people were cheering loudly. The stadium got even more crowded by 3.30pm, because that was when the top-ranking sumo yokozuna-wannabes would have their bouts for the day. Before their contest, they entered the ring in rank and file, forming a circle while the ring announcer read their names out to the cheering crowd. Each sumo wrestler had their own sponsors and were dressed in brightly colored garb.
The rituals prior to each bout involved the sumo wrestlers squatting and clapping their hands, followed by throwing powder into the ring. Some wrestlers threw so much powder that I could have sworn those in the front row box seats got powdered as well. Bouts were generally shorter than the rituals that preceded them, but I witnessed some especially exciting fights that lasted for a long time. There were also foreign sumo wrestlers from Russia, Ukraine, and some other countries. It was impressive how some of them who were smaller could still hold their ground against the bulkier opponents.
The sumo tournament ended with yet another elaborate ceremony at 5.30pm. This time, a rikishi entered the ring and performed a dance while twirling a long bow. This was considered an expression of satisfaction for the winning sumo wrestlers that day.
Nagoya castle was more colorful than Himeji Castle but less brightly colored than Osaka castle. Nevertheless, it was a grand sight to behold. (I have become somewhat of a castle enthusiast now, since I have never set foot in a castle prior to my visit to Japan.) Like Himeji castle, part of Nagoya castle was under restoration and there were ad-hoc exhibitions detailing the reconstruction process. There was also a special exhibition on the ancient toys and clay dolls that Japanese used to play with.
While exploring the area, I found tour guides dressed in ancient japanese costumes showing groups around. There was also a couple having their wedding photos taken here. The CiEE Japanese Teacher asserts that Nagoya Castle and the food in Nagoya are the most must-try things in Nagoya, and I fully agree!
It has been fun writing for the CiEE blog and I hope readers find my posts helpful and informative. I hope these posts have encouraged you to visit and explore Japan! Ciao!