Sumo, behind the scenes part 3

Following our trip to the training house we headed for the tournament itself. This is where the insider nature of our guide became apparent. Unfortunately we don’t have any pictures from this part of the day. So you will have to put up with my description.

We drove up to the front gate of the tournament, where a uniformed security guard tried to wave us off to the public parking. Instead we rolled down the window, and with a few words, we were shuttled through to the parking area reserved for wrestlers and officials. We parked in the back of the lot and walked in a back entrance to the stadium, past a handful of sumo-san in yukata smoking outside.

Once inside, Danielle was told to wait with her VPs daughter. I went, however, with the VP and our guide into a big room. This room turned out the be the resting room for the sumo wrestlers. The room was divided into two halves, east and west. The wrestlers are all assigned their side of the room to prevent them from running into their opponents. In each half there were tatami areas where the wrestlers could come and place their box. A crate holding their belts, yukata, and personal effects. Once they were done wrestling for the day, each of the wrestlers had to cart this box away to make room for the other wrestlers as they came in. At the top of each room were the boxes for the Yokozuna and two Ozeki from each side/direction, who each had their own location set for the whole tournament.

We walked through the room as out guide said hello to a couple of wrestlers he knew. Danielle’s VP did his best to explain to me, in japanese, where we were and what I was looking at. Mostly the room had several wrestlers in various states of dress, napping, chatting, joking, drinking, and eating. When we strode a bit too close to the boxes for the top three ranked wrestlers, we were quickly and politely asked by a security guard to leave. It was a bit funny to me, because the quite large security guard, did not look nearly as intimidating surrounded by all of the wrestlers in that room.

From that room we proceeded to the Judges resting room. Where we discover our guides biggest connection. He was friends with the top judge, or Gyoji, of the tournament. So we all sat down with the top judge and had a bit of tea. The top Gyoji, as it turns out, only really presides over one match a day. The final match involving one of the Yokozuna. The rest of his time is taken up in paperwork, calligraphy, etc. We sat and chatted with him. Eventually, I was allowed to hold his gunbai, which is a type of wooden fan used in judging the matches. It was an elaborately decorated lacquer peice, with inlaid gold and stones. I was surprised by how heavy it was. Danielle however, was not allowed to touch it, as she would get her girl cooties all over it. (ick, girl cooties.)

Following this meeting we had a brief lunch, and were led to a couple of boxes right up close to the action. There we spent about an hour watching sumo with wonderful seats way up close. It was a lot of fun, and a good way to get a bit of a prep with which to enjoy our second full day of sumo fun.

So much thanks goes out to Danielle’s former Vice Principle for thinking of us. He was really kind, and he and his daughter went out of their way to talk with us, in simple Japanese, so we could follow what was happening all day. Another big thank you goes to his friend for showing us around.

Posted on Thursday, July 31st, 2008 at 3:16 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Sumo, behind the scenes part 3”

  1. Eric Reiner says:

    I think you were so fortunate to get such a close-up, inside view of this sport, one that I bet very few Japanese sumo fans ever get. Dad

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