Monday, March 29, 2004

Osaka's annual Sumo tournament ended yesterday. The champion wrestler, Asashouryu, a Mongolian who is about half the size of the largest wrestlers, was undefeated in the contest. Someone told me he hadn't lost any of his last 30 bouts, which seems quite impressive.

Typical for Gaijins, we purchased the cheapest tickets, standing area nose-bleeds, and then looked for unoccupied tatami (straw mat) seats to better view the bouts in more comfort and closeness. Unoccupied seats are easy to spot. The tatami, by the placement of cushions, is divided into seats, further separated into groups of four seats with raised metal bars, comprising a kind of group box seat. If someone buys one of these boxes, the ushers place cups for tea on a small tray inside the barred area, thus indicating that the area is reserved. We simply looked for seats where there were no tea cups and made ourselves at home.

If you can afford a box seat, you get lots of goodies. When guests arrive, they are brought a warm pot of tea to drink. Shortly afterwards, an usher arrives to take orders. The spectators in each box receive a bento (a traditional japanese lunch box), beer or sake, and some Sumo souvenirs. As we didn't pay for the luxury, I'm not entirely sure what else is included. Fortunately, scavengers that we were, we were able to snatch some unopened bentos and beer at the end of the contest, after most of those in attendance had dispersed. Enough, in fact, to feed and drink all six of us that evening!

Sumo is a great Japanese sport. We just don't have anything like it in America. There are quite a few foreign wrestlers, also. I'm not sure about the ratio of foreign to native wrestlers, but there's enough to notice that it's a significant number. I think the previous champion, Akebono, was Hawaiian. I can't help wondering what the Japanese think of so many foreigners playing and dominating their sport.

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