May 18, 2013
The Edo-Tokyo Museum is located right next to the Ryogoku Kokugikan (the sumo stadium) and from the outside it looks like it’s from another world.
The museum follows the history of Tokyo and though I didn’t take a lot of pictures it was really interesting. There was miniatures, a reproduction of a Kabuki theatre and bookshop, as well as a couple old cars.
It was a great place to learn about the history of Tokyo and how a small fishing village turned into the city that it is today.
Finally, after the busy day we had already had, it was time for a little sumo wrestling. We were both really excited about witnessing some sumo matches first hand and getting the tickets had been first on my list once we booked our flight to Japan. Most people in Japan buy their sumo tickets ahead of time but being out of the country we couldn’t do that. Sumo events tend to sell out and though we could have risked it and tried to get tickets once we got here, I didn’t want to take that chance. Instead I used buysumotickets.com to act as our agent and purchase tickets on our behalf. After letting them know our price range and intended date they bought tickets for us and mailed them by registered mail. It was quick, painless and only slightly more expensive than buying them once we got here.
The matches had started around 830am in the morning, beginning with the lowest division and ending with the top ranked at the end of the day. We got there around 230pm as the mid-level wrestlers were entering the ring.
So much of sumo is based on tradition and respect, much like Japanese culture itself. After entering the ring the wrestler claps his hands and stomps his legs to drive evil spirits.
Then each wrestler goes to his corner and accepts a ladle of water (known as “power water”) to rinse his mouth, followed by a towel (“power paper”) to dry his face. They then step back into the ring and squat facing each other, clap their hands and spread them wide (to show they have no weapons).
Returning to their corners they each pick up a handful of salt which they toss onto the ring to purify it. They enter the ring again and stand staring at each other, one might crouch to show he’s ready but the other decides he’s not and returns back to his corner. Back and forth they go, it’s all about intimidation and mental preparedness until both wrestlers crouch and place both their fists on the ground. Then they charge and the bout is over in a matter of seconds.
There is an East and West division and I think this board was scoreboard which showed which wrestler won each match.
When we first got there the place was half empty, but as the matches went on and the more popular wrestlers started the arena started to fill up. I loved hearing the crowd cheer for their favourites and I found myself getting caught up in a sport I knew nothing about and athletes I couldn’t name.
I took a short video of one of the matches that shows just how long the pre-bout posturing goes on for and just how short the fighting actually is. You can skip to 3:05 if you want to just see the flight.
I was surprised (and impressed) with how flexible agile the wrestlers were. They moved faster than I thought possible for a guy of their size and managed to drop it down low low low low low.