I don’t know when they began training, but sumo wrestlers of Tokitsukaze-beya Stable were about to finish that day’s practice when I arrived at their camp around 9 o’clock in the morning. They stay at a temple in Inuyama during Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July every year.
A young sumoist, who has just joined in the sumo world this spring after graduating from a high school, was sparring with a wrestler of high rank when I saw their training space. The tension was so thick. There were many sumo fans around the ring, but no one spoke. The atmosphere, however, changed completely after training. A lot of fans asked wrestlers to take photos together and many people talked and laughed cheerfully. But no one never entered the ring, in which is very holy. Especially, woman are never allowed to enter it.
After the practice, young sumo wrestlers start cooking chanko, which is a sumo wrestlers’ meal without changing clothes. They usually begin eating chanko in descending order of wrestlers of higher rank. But if they have guests, they regard guests are more important.
I visited the camp with some of my friends that day, and we were treated as special guests by them. So we start to eat first that day. Amazingly, they gave us beer in the morning! In addition, they served beer to rice bowls!
Sumo wrestlers take the bath in descending order of higher rank as well, and after bathing they have hair set by an exclusive hair dresser called tokoyama in the sumo world. A famous wrestler called Toyono-Shima came to our table. He’s a 26 year-old star of the stable. He’s a nice and friendly person and never arrogant in spite of his position, in which he’s always adored by others.
He told me many interesting things. For example, he used to use detergents when he washes hair because of the hair oil. Moreover, the brands of shampoo he likes are Mod’s Hair and Vidal Sassoon. Furthermore, most of the wrestlers need one bottle of shampoo once they wash their hair…
In addition, he explained the origin of the name of chanko to me when I asked. By the way, do you know chanko? It’s a kind of stew and is eaten by almost all sumo wrestlers in Japan every day. According to Toyono-shima, chanko means a father and children. Chan is a father and ko is child(ren). In a sumo stable, the stable master is a father and the wrestlers in the stable are his children. Chanko is a symbol food of the tight-knit sumo stable.
This is the stable master, Tokitsukaze. Actually I have thought he was a just youngster of lower rank until I was introduced… You know, he looks so young! Yes, he is young. But he has responsibility to unify his team and have his “children” strong as their “father”.
In Tokitsukaze-beya Stable, there was a very sad incident last summer. At the Inuyama camp, a young sumo wrestler has died through the training. Allegedly, it seems he was killed by other wrestlers and the former master in lynch called practice. Some sumo wrestlers and the previous master were arrested and accused last year.
It appeared for me that the young people who were left behind after the scandal in the stable never forget about the affair but are trying to lift up their spirit. So, they train hard and eat chanko together confirming their unity every day.
I enjoyed watching sumo practice, talking with sumo wrestlers over delicious chanko that day. I hope they will make a very strong showing at Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.