To convey the sheer awesomeness of sumo in mere words… is impossible. I can only hope to shed a small, match-light-flame-sized light on this extraordinary adventure.
First off, I want to send kudos to my friend Brian Patz. He braved the cold, the wind, and heavily occupied trains to accompany me to Osaka for the March tournament. Without his help, I would have gotten lost… utterly and completely lost.
We arrived in Osaka just after 10:30 ish. (This accomplishment alone from AWAJI: the island of dream vacations and the capitol of inconvenient transportation, was amazing. It meant we had to leave Awaji island before the sun came up over the horizon… four days prior. Just kidding :). But we did have to leave REALLY early.)
Upon arriving in Namba (another name for a part of Osaka that you wouldn’t have known about until you got lost there) we quickly asked for directions to the prefectural gymnasium (Brian speaks Japanese.) Though, had we waited to ask directions for 3 minutes, we would have been able to tell which direction to move in. This is because 2 VERY LARGE sumo wrestlers were walking from the SAME train station to get to the tournament. The only thing they carried with them were their mawashi in little hobo-esque bags. (no sticks attached.) We knew where they were going, and figured it would be best to follow them. I have to say, it was pretty exciting to see real sumo wrestlers! It felt like I was entering into Hollywood, seeing actors actresses whom I have admired for years.
It was beautiful.
I almost cried.
So, then we bought tickets. 10,300 yen. That’s a little less than $100. I was just happy that we were able to purchase box B tickets. B seats are the 2nd closest you could get to the ring. Box A were all sold out. The cool part about it, was that no one else bought seats in our box. (Usually 4 people sit in these little squares that have floor cushions in them. and basically you sit on the floor the entire time.) So, we were able to stretch out… for half the price! (To purchase an entire box cost twice as much as Brian and I paid.) There were interesting men in the boxes around us. We initially thought they might be a nuisance, but it turned out that they were REALLY nice and made the experience all that more enjoyable… they enjoyed taslking with us too, since Brian and I know a little about Sumo. They gave us some of their food and beer… and later in the match they actually bought us ice cream.
We sat in our little box for close to 6 hours. Until finally… the top ranking guys came in. In all their sumo glory, I had to resist running up there and giving each one a hug while asking “Do you know you have changed my life forever?” (Thinking this through, I thought better of it. They would only have needed to flick the tiniest finger in my general direction, and I would have been Aris-mush.
I couldn’t believe it was all real, as one by one, my heroes walked into the room. Takamisakari, Kotooshu…. and yes, Yokozuna Asashorju himself.
The thought actually passed through my mind, that, for one moment, I was breathing the same air they were. Granted, it was rather musty air, filled with smells of unknown Japanese food nastiness… but it was the SAME air nonetheless.
Needless to say, all of my main guys won that afternoon. The newspaper said later that Kotooshu seemed to be “the most comfortable he has been in the ring” since this tournament began. I really hate to burst all of the Japanese ladies hearts, but the reason is because he had 22 year-old Aris Haines from Colorado, U.S.A. yelling her poor little head off to encourage and support him. Yes, Kotooshu KNEW I was there. And so did Asashorju.
The stares from the Japanese people in the boxes around us were pretty funny. And it made Brian and I get louder and more “American” in our boisterous manner. The men in the boxes next to ours, became friends, and shouted with us feeding off our energy.
After sumo, Brian and I went to Saiezeriya. Yes Hannah, yes Caleb Trim…. we went to the beloved place of grape ice cream that is “like Welches in my mouth” and chocolate truffles. There, I had one of the best pieces of beef I have had in Japan. It had virtually NO FAT on or in it. It was… amazing.
I got home after such an amazing day, and had to pinch myself to remember it hadn’t been a dream. The soreness of my throat was enough of a witness to that though.
You never know if you will be able to come back. I certainly don’t. But even if I never get to see sumo live again… the one time I had was more than I could have ever asked for.