Tag Archives: sumo

The Early-Morning Sumo Practice: You should have done it that way from the beginning…

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CAM00379     “You should have done it that way from the beginning…” murmured Sakanabe, a sumo wrestler. I was observing an early-morning practice of sumo in Nagakute on July 26. A sumo stable called Tagono-ura-beya was staying at Daiyu-in Temple during the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July. Taeko, one of my friends picked me up at 6:45 in the morning, and then we went to the temple to watch sumo wrestlers practicing outside.

     Four young men were training when we arrived at the temple. About 15 people had already been there and were watching their performance keenly. The number of spectators and journalists gradually increased. Most of them came with the aim of looking at Takayasu, who had a chance of winning the tournament as a Japanese and lower position wrestler. Non-Japanese wrestlers have been winning the cup for eight years, and all of the champions except for one were yokozuna (the first-rank wrestlers) or ozeki (the second-rank ones). CAM00388

     The four young wrestlers were practicing hard but sometimes they smiled at each other. Their expressions changed suddenly when three other wrestlers appeared at the sumo ring. Those three in white loincloths were wrestlers in the senior division and three times as big as the youngsters in black sashes. The young people had strained looks. One of them hastily went to take some water with a dipper and then came to the biggest and oldest wrestler, Wakano-sato, to greet him. He offered Wakano-sato the water deferentially, saying, “Good morning.” But Wakano-sato did not accept the water and said nothing. Then another young man did the same thing, but Wakano-sato did not accept the water from him, either. Surprisingly, another one did the same thing! I thought, “Hey! Wakano-sato doesn’t want water now! Can’t you tell that?” Probably, it is a tradition or something…CAM00392

     Two of the young wresters, Sakanabe and Taka-saito began to practice. Takayasu was stretching and the second-rank wrestler, Kiseno-sato was training outside of the ring during their practice. But Wakano-sato was sitting down and staring at them. Taka-saito was throwing himself against Sakanabe again and again. Finally he was about to leave the ring, saying “Thank you.” Then Wakano-sato opened his mouth. “Do it again.” Taka-saito was stupefied and stood rooted there. He could not seem to understand what had happened for a while. Sakanabe nodded when Taka-saito looked at him.

     Then Taka-saito’s crash course began. He threw himself against Sakanabe and then was turned over. The same thing was done with Wakano-sato’s word, “Again.” It was repeated over and over. Taka-saito could not stand up quickly. He was panting on his knees. But Wakano-sato said, “You’re slow. Get up quickly and do it again!” Takayasu and Kiseno-sato kept on practicing without any expressions. But the other young wrestlers tensed and were doing muscle training frantically. The sense of tension hit the audience. The spectators were just looking closely to what was happening with bated breath.

     Suddenly Taka-saito’s eyes changed. He tackled Sakanabe with every ounce of his being. Sakanabe murmured, “You should have done it that way from the beginning…” Wakano-sato nodded and Taka-saito was released from the special training at last…CAM00409

     After that, Sakanabe throw himself against Takayasu for a while. Then Takayasu left the ring with many journalists and the early-morning practice was over. Kiseno-sato and Wakano-sato did not enter the ring at all…

     In the evening when I turned on the TV, Wakano-sato happened to be about to fight against his opponent. He defeated the adversary. I was happy to see he win somehow. Unfortunately, Takayasu and Kiseno-sato lost their fights…Hakuho, yokozuna, or the first-rank wrestler, from Mongolia won the tournament. But Takayasu received a fighting-spirit award. I hope the four young wrestlers, especially Taka-saito, who had a crash course, will become high-rank wrestlers and play important roles in the sumo field someday soon.

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Dohyo Matsuri ~ a ceremony of a sumo tornament ~ : Sumo is still a Shinto ritual…

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     Now the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament is on at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. Sumo is a kind of wrestling and Japanese national sport. In these modern days, sumo is regarded as a sport, but it used to be a Shinto ritual. That is why, there are many Shinto rites in sumo wrestling still now. A ceremony called “dohyo-matsuri” was held last Saturday, and I went to see it with two of my friends. CAM00260

     Dohyo-matsuri is held on the day before the start of the tournament to purify the ring called dohyo and pray for safety of the event. It is opened to the public for free, but many people do not even know of its existence. It is probably because it is not given publicity in a positive manner. It is still a Shinto ritual and they want to hold it in a quiet and respectful manner. So, the entrance door of the gymnasium was closed by 9:50 a.m. to start the ceremony at 10:00.

     CAM00283High-ranking sumo wrestlers and authorized people were seated around the dohyo ring. Three sumo referees called gyoji, in white Shinto priest costumes performed the ceremony. They purified the participants and the place with some holy plants called sakaki, paper streamers named shide, and sake. Then the main referee recited a Shinto prayer. CAM00287

     There was a small hole in the center of the ring. The referees put offerings – some rice, salt, kelp seaweed, dried squid, nuts called kaya, and chestnuts into the hole. And then they poured sake over them. Two drum corps appeared and walked around the ring three times, striking the drum. Then, the hole in the ring was sealed…CAM00302

     While I was watching the ceremony, I realized anew that sumo is not only a sport but also still a Shinto ritual. That is why women cannot enter the dohyo ring today in the 21st century, either… Oh, I am not going to be a sumo wrestler, mind you!