Friday, September 17, 2010

Tokyo Trip Part 4

So far, nobody has guessed what we did on Wednesday. This hint will give it away-- our destination, Ryogoku station! Yay!

The minute we got off the train we saw this guy walking around, topknot and all.

And here is the groupie hangout alley.

Yes, it's true--we got to see sumo!!

There are two tournaments a year in Tokyo. They each last about two weeks. The paintings on the wall are almost to scale.

There are a few foreign wrestlers. ...

These trophies must be quite motivating, I'm sure. Who wouldn't wrestle for a huge Coke bottle. And what is in that jar? Mushrooms? Walnuts? Brains of defeated wrestlers?

The view inside the stadium. So magestic. I have to admit, it still feels weird to see the Japanese flag and not the American one. (I am a slow learner)

It was empty. The morning slots are for the junior wrestlers (maegashira), and they don't seem to attract many fans (but we definitely saw some parents!). The champions start around 3pm. We paid for nosebleed seats, but we got to sit in the empty seats down lower. Kids were only 200 yen; adults 2100 yen. The close seats were something like 15000 yen.

Oh, did you want to see some wrestlers? Sorry! Here:

See? No weapons.

The NFL can be a religious experience, of course, but these refs are Shinto.... This priest/referee is addressing the winner (the guy squatting) while the loser is walking off the platform in the far left corner. Better luck next time, dude.

Another match. They're using the 'grab the belt' strategy. We also saw the "slap slap slap" strategy and the "hop out of the way at the last minute" strategy. And of course, the "I'm just gonna push you right out of the ring" strategy.

This was one of the bigger guys. He lost, by the way. Size did not always matter.

This is the stomping ritual they do before each match...some guys get their legs waaaay up there. This guy? not so much.

Oops! A tie. Five judges confer.

Okay. It's decided. West won (the guy on the right).

Portrait of a past champion. Not only are these guys rather, well, wide; they are also VERY tall.

This sport requires lots of sweeping. But it's all guys--no women allowed to defile the platform. Oh, well: I didn't mind watching men clean obsessively.

See if you can watch our YouTube video of one of the matches.

Here's another video: Big guy vs. small guy.

Time for lunch in town. New food: "pepper steak." It comes raw on a super hot iron plate and cooks as you eat it. Very popular with the boys. This was one of those places where you pay for your food first at a big vending machine. It's like a menu, with buttons.

At 3:00 the slightly-higher-ranked wrestlers (mukoshita) started. Before their matches, they appear in their stables' ceremonial aprons. (Is that some trash talk from the dude in red?)

One of the higher-level matches here. See the salt in the ring? Only the higher level guys get to throw salt. And only higher level ref/priests get to wear socks and sandals. Fashion = power. Power = fashion.

Did you know that Sumo wrestlers ride the subway?

Later that day, we got to visit a toy store in Ginza for a few minutes. Ultra Man is shorter than expected but Darrin was still impressed to meet his partner in crime fighting from elementary school days.

Finally, on Wednesday night, Darrin and I returned to American soil for a few hours. We went to a fancy party at the ambassador's house. They served American beer and wine, and also chips and guacamole! We took more pictures, but I'm not sure I'm allowed to post them.

One final shot from the Shinkansen platform on the way home. Do you notice something surprising in this photo? First one to comment on it gets a postcard.


  1. OK now I am officially jealous. SUMO!!!!!!!

  2. I didn't guess sumo, but gotta admit I was getting
    As for the element of surprise on the platform display...humm...
    They translate the categories in English (time, departure, etc.) but not the actual destination?

  3. The top train, in red, is LATE! Or even, heaven forbid, canceled?????? This does not seem like the Japanese way.......

  4. First, I was thinking about Beth and her love/nostalgia for Japan based on her first visit there years ago. I was going to ask her if this visit, living there with the complications and challenges of having her family with her, has affected it in any way. No need to ask ..... she's clearly LOVING it. And the family Japanese total immersion is just so cool to get to see. Yay!! Thanks for letting us see this truly great thing Beth.

    Then, what's surprising in the picture of the train? I don't think I'm the one getting a post card, but I did stare at that picture for a long time. Oh, what a lonely life I lead. ;-)
    Here's my entry: At the very bottom of the picture there's a sign that has an icon that looks like an elevator. And to the left of it is an upward pointing arrow that's pointing to the roof. A dumb gaijin like me might think that this means the elevator is on the roof! Like I said, this is surely no post-card winning entry, but at least I tried. I think the "late train" entry must surely be the winner.

    Green with envy,