Sumo Wrestling in Fukuoka

Every year there are six grand Sumo tournaments in Japan, held in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. Each tournament lasts for 15 days, and we were lucky enough to see the second last day of the Fukuoka tournament in November.

A quintessentially Japanese experience, the sumo tournament begins at 9 and lasts until around 6, making for a very long day for the spectators. The lower ranked wrestlers compete early in the day, with the matches leading up to the grand champions in the the evening. Many attendees don’t show up until around 4, just in time to see the higher ranked wrestlers compete. We were there around 2, as we wanted to have time to explore and learn a little about Sumo. It gave us a chance to see the Sumo wrestlers walking around outside in their traditional uniforms, and marvel at their sheer size. As well we had plenty of time to buy Hello Kitty’s dressed like Sumo wrestlers, Sumo magnets, Sumo ear cleaners and other hilarious memorabilia.

As the sumo wrestlers enter the ring, they take their place around the circle and are introduced to the crowd. Wrestlers compete in two groups – east and west, and are paired off with someone else in their skill level from the opposite group. Every day they compete against a different opponent, and the scores from the tournament are added up at the end to declare the grand champion.

Each bout lasts only a few seconds, and the first wrestler to touch the ground outside the marked ring loses the match. Thought the matches were often short and anticlimactic, the mental preparation component before the bout could last up to four minutes, with each wrestler stomping his legs, shouting and throwing salt in the ring.

Sumo has faced many problems lately: allegations of match fixing prompted organizers to cancel the spring grand tournament in Osaka and attendance at tournaments is declining, as most of the fans are elderly, with few young people interested in the sport. However, I thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Fukuoka tournament, and would go again if I had a chance. One of my favourite parts was the advertising. Instead of traditional sporting event advertising of billboards or panels, Sumo wrestlers carried out banners advertising many Japanese brands, and of course, McDonalds.

Related posts:

Sports Day again!

It’s sports day season in Japan!

Every year each high school puts on a day packed with events, songs and ridiculous acrobatics. The students get two weeks of afternoons off classes to practice, and they organize everything themselves. They are split into teams that they stay on throughout their high school years, so a lot of pride and energy is involved.

The day started off with a group warm up. The students followed the radio taiso program, which each Japanese person seems to know by heart. Retirees practice this routine in the courtyard outside my apartment at 7 am, and by now the chants and movements are becoming familiar to me. 

After the warm up, all the of the students marched around the field in formation, saluting at the Judges table, before settling into their bleachers.

One of the most interesting aspects of Sports Day was the group mentality. Even the individual running races are scored as a team. After finishing, the students sat behind a flag indicating their place in the race, and after the last racer, the points were counted up for each place before declaring the winner of that event.

There were some interesting races too, including this obstacle course with potato sacks, a cardboard box which the students had to caterpillar themselves in, spinning around a baseball bat and crawling under a net. The teachers participated in an obstacle course with many of the same elements, but they also had to stick their face in a bucket of cornstarch and find a candy with their mouth.

My favourite race started out as a three legged race and half way around, the students had to pick a scavenger hunt item out of a box and retrieve an item from the audience. Seeing them hobble together with their parents cell phones and purses was amusing to say the least.

There were even events for the parents and friends of students, like this game where you had to get as many balls as you could into the net. The red teams parents trounced the blue teams.

The highlights of the afternoon were elaborate choreographed routines, dancing for the girls, and marching for the boys.

I had a fabulous time at sports day, and took way too many pictures, so there will be another post soon!

Related posts:

Sports Day at Omuta Kita

Last weekend we had sports day at my school and it was so much fun!

Here is a video of the blue team’s girls dancing to Avril Lavigne.

Excuse the part at the end where I start singing….

Related posts:

Japan’s Weird Food: Wagashi

Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets. Traditional as in ancient and also extremely common. They are commonly made out of red bean paste, a taste I never thought I would get used to, let alone like, but that goes to show you, you never know what’s going to happen.

They are usually served with macha tea at tea ceremony, and should be eaten before you drink the tea, in order to cut the bitterness. In tea ceremony, they are always served on a piece of paper with a little wooden stick to eat them with. My favourite part about Wagashi are their amazing forms. Shaped like baby birds, leaves, blossoms and fruit, among other things, they truly are an edible work of art.

Related posts:

The Temple of Heaven

Tragically, we were distracted by shopping, and this is as close as we came to the Temple of Heaven. ]

Travel tip: The park is open until 6, but the gates to the temples close at 4.

Related posts:

Great Wall

The Great Wall of China. I still can’t believe I actually got to go! It was the only place I knew I wanted to see on our trip. We took an overnight tour offered by our hostel and had an amazing time exploring the wall.

We left the hostel at 1 pm and drove two hours to the far end of the Badaling section of the wall. This was not the Badaling section teeming with tourists and souvenir stalls. In our entire time on the wall we saw only one other group. Our guide showed us where the tents were and told us what time to meet back for dinner and then we were free to explore the wall!

As amazing as it was to be at the Great Wall, all I could think about for our three hour hike was how many stairs there were, and when they would stop. It was quite the workout. Up and down, up and down, some parts on rocks that crumbled beneath our feet or on stairs only half as wide as my foot. The extreme concentration I was putting into not dying of a fall or a stroke meant that I took only one photo of myself on the wall, and it’s that beauty up there. I’m not sure what I was thinking.

 

After a delicious dinner we were set free on the wall until 8:30 the next morning, when the guides would be back to pick us up. All alone on the world heritage site, we had a good time playing with our cameras and flashlights, until one of the flashlights fell over the wall and we were forced to compete in events of physical strength instead.


The night was cold, windy, and more than a little miserable, but it was worth it in the morning, when we woke up to watch the sunrise. Some of our group were ambitious and went on a two hour trek, but I only made it to the first tower. The view was spectacular.

I definitely recommend the overnight tour. While we might not have been at one of the most famous or most beautiful areas of the wall, having the whole place to ourselves was amazing. The tour cost about $90 and included three meals and all the camping equipment. I would however, recommend bringing warm clothing and an extra blanket so you can sleep well enough to hike in the morning.

How to: We booked the trip through Leo Hostel, a place I would definitely recommend staying!

Related posts: