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Sumo

Upon first glancing at Sumo it appears to be two very fat men in diapers walking around on a raised platform for 5 minutes. There is some stretching, white stuff gets thrown in the air, and every time you think there is about to be some action (they crouch down and stare at each other) they simply get up and throw some more white stuff. There is also a older, much smaller man wearing really nice silk pajamas who screams when the monsters finally begin charging and slapping at each other. When one hits the ground or is tossed out of the ring, which usually takes seconds it is not uncommon to see spectators throw pillows. A few minutes pass and the same spectical begins anew.

A second look reveils a sporting match that begins with much ceremony, each fighter showing the other they have no weapons aside from their bare hands and the purification of the ring with salt thrown in the air. The two incredibly strong, flexible grappling technicians (who achieve their size by shoveling mass amounts of Chanko-nabe and beer down their gullets along with hours of exercize) attempt to unnerve their opponent as they settle into the ready position. As they are signalled to start by the referee, wearing traditional Kamakura Period samurai kimono, they come together in an explosion of power and speed. With shouts of encouragement to keep fighting by the referee the sumo attempt to force their opponent out of the ring or make them touch the ground with anything but the soles of their feet, though chopping, choking, punching, pulling hair, poking the eyes, grabbing in the groin area, or kicking above the knees are not allowed. If the fight is particularly spectacular and the crowd is pleased they will throw their seat pillows in approval.

The precursor to jujitsu and today's sport of judo, sumo has been a part of Japan's history for over 1500 years. Many of the rituals date back to Shinto festivals held in hopes of a good harvest. Performed with dancing, music, and dramas, bouts were added to the festivities and became very popular. At first sumo was little more than a no holds barred match between two men in a ring of people. Over time as more people become interested, particularly as the Imperial court's interest grew the sport began to take the form of the sumo we see today. Rules were established, fighters were sponsored, and held in high regard by the public.

Though only 70 fighters of the top two divisions are salaried there are hundreds of men fighting to get to the top and over 500,000 amateurs (elementary, junior and high school students, college students and corporate team members) participating in Japan today. As for non-Japanese professional sumos, men from Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Mongolia, China and the United States have been sucessful. The top two being Chad Rowan (Akebono) and Fiamalu Penitani (Musashimaru) both attaining the rank of Yokozuna (grand champion), of which only 64 men since the 1700's have held. Grand Sumo Tournaments are held 6 times a year (every odd numbered month), three in Tokyo and one each in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka.

In Okazaki it is possible to see Sumo tournaments, and the wrestler Kotomitsuki was raised here. Popular Sport. Foreigners can join in as well.

©Declan Murphy / Frontia Corporation - All rights reserved
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