Sumo Tournament Pillow Fight!

I told Andrew that I’m having a difficult time choosing what to write about.  All the memories come flooding back at once, it’s hard for me to pick just one.  So Andrew chose for me — the sumo tournament we attended in Nagoya Japan in 2008!

When we’d planned our trip, Andrew had broached the subject with me, the possibility of attending a sumo match.  I told him, “No thank-you!”

But, as with everything, he was able to convince me.

He ordered the tickets ahead of time, online, and they were mailed to us.  So we had these tickets for a very long time.  The sumo tournament was the very last thing we did in Japan on that trip before heading home.

Interestingly, as we rode the underground train closer and closer to the location, some sumo wrestlers took the train with us.

The match we were attending was held in a gymnasium in the Aichi Prefecturure — this was built in 1964.

sumo 1

As we neared the tournament, we saw these colourful flags!

sumo 1-1

Grand Sumo Tournament  — nobori banners.

Once we were settled in our seats (on purple pillows), the match began.  It’s very ceremonial.

sumo 1-2

sumo 1-3dohyo-iri (ring-entering ceremony)

Sumo is actually a part of the Shinto religion, and you can see in the photo below that the ring is set up like a Shinto shrine.

sumo 1-4

We had really cool seats, where we had to take off our shoes and sit on pillows.

As the tournament progresses, the better sumo wrestlers emerge, and the ceremony before the wrestling begins becomes longer and longer.  There is salt-tossing involved.  I think this is to purify the ring.

sumo 1-5

At half-time (I’m sure that’s NOT what they call it…) I got hungry, surprise surprise.  So I went to find a bento lunch.  Just one bento, one beer, and one green tea for Andrew and I to share, cost $23.  That kind of made me choke.  That’s why I only bought one lunch and figured we’d share.

sumo 1-6

sumo 1-7

Before they begin to wrestle, they perform what looks to me like maybe a ceremonial dance…

sumo 1-8

I wish the wrestlers were as well-clothed as the gyoji (referee).

sumo 2

A typical sumo move is to get a hold of the opponent’s belt and chuck them out of the ring (and into the audience).

sumo 2-1

The tournament was fun to watch, fairly fast-paced.

I became so used to just sitting there watching the ever-lengthening ceremonies and seeing sumo wrestlers tumbling out of the ring, that I was completely floored when suddenly this happened:

sumo 2-2

Suddenly, the purple pillows were flying everywhere!  We were so surprised, we burst out laughing.  Just total chaos suddenly broke out!  It was fantastic.

Andrew quickly figured out what was going on.  “The Yokozuna lost!” he told me.  And apparently when this happens, you take your pillow and throw it!

So of course we joined in the fun…

sumo 2-3

Andrew’s pillow nailed an older lady in the head a few rows up from us.

I’ve just found something amusing that I’d forgotten about, here in my journal:  Then there was an announcement, ‘We are sorry for crowding that makes you feel uncomfortable.’  This also caused us to burst out laughing.  Just another reason I love Japan — so polite, and aware that people don’t like to be crowded.  So great.

I recently came across this on YouTube — someone else was at the same sumo tournament that we were!  I shall leave you with this:

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3 responses to “Sumo Tournament Pillow Fight!

  1. It doesn’t appear that the actual wrestling lasts very long. Is this true? It’s more about the ceremony and pomp? Or do they wrestle many times? What happens when you throw your pillow? Is the match over? What do you sit on then? Many questions. 🙂

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    • Yeah, each bout lasts just a few seconds. It really is more about the ceremony of the thing. That’s why it’s a tournament and not just one match. The Yokazuna is the ultimate champion, so when he loses, it’s very significant, and that’s why everyone throws their pillow. He only wrestles for the final match, so yeah, the whole thing is over anyway at that point. No more sitting. 🙂

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