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One for the books!

Sport, as defined by Wikipedia, includes all forms of competitive physical activity or games which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators. There are different kinds of sports all over the world. We also have our own in the Philippines. But, for the first time, I was able to witness a sport I’ve been wanting to see for so long.

Last January 15, 2018, we were able to experience watching a Sumo Tournament. Actually, when I was young, I’ve heard so many things about it which captured my curiosity. Thankfully, someone I know loves watching this sport and invited us to experience it in person.

Kokugikan in Ryogoku
Photo from Google

Sumo is a Japanese style of wrestling and Japan’s national sport. It originated in ancient times as a performance to entertain the Shinto deities. Three grand tournaments are held annually, every January, May and September. Usually, tickets are not easy to come by. Most of the time, people book them in advance especially those good seats nearest to the ring. General admission tickets on the other hand are sold as same-day seats on tournament days. However, these tickets sell like hotcakes. So, I suggest you buy them as early as 8am when the box office opens.

standees of the Yokozuna outside the Kokugikan

We arrived before lunch and watched the first few bouts. Morning and midday bouts are from low-ranked wrestlers. The arena is much quieter and less stimulating than usual since there weren’t many people at that time. We were able to choose seats that are nearer the ring and saw the matches up close. We saw the different rituals done before and after the bouts. It was something new and interesting for us foreigners.

Chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋)

At lunch, we tried Chankonabe, which is commonly eaten in vast quantity by sumo wrestlers as part of a weight gain diet. While we were eating, we met a foreigner from New Zealand who is a huge fan of Sumo. He told us about so many things related to Sumo including the fact that there is a half-Filipino wrestler. We were utterly surprised to hear that not only one but two wrestlers have Filipino blood. Isn’t that great?

Takayasu Akira – a Half-Filipino Sumo Wrestler

Anyway, since there’s still a lot of time before the main event, we went sightseeing in Asakusa. Did I mention we were clad in Kimonos? We thought wearing a Kimono while watching a traditional sport would be appropriate. Well, actually it was more of a personal whim. But, it was really perfect for the event. Don’t you think so?

a picture of us wearing kimono in Sensō-ji 🙂

When it was finally time to go back and watch the senior division, we were totally astonished by the crowd inside the arena. It was totally packed and many people were shouting and cheering their favorites. It was a scene extremely opposite of the one in the morning. The bouts were really different and more stimulating than ever. It actually made me feel very excited and at the same time really nervous. Of course, since we already knew about the half-Filipino wrestlers, we decided to cheer for them too. It was genuinely exhilarating and nerve-wrecking, most especially when high-profile wrestlers and Yokozunas were on the ring. It was as if I’d been watching these tournaments for a long time.

Senior Division (Ikioi and Endō)

with Endō 🙂

In the end, all the wrestlers we’ve supported won their matches on that day. I’m now a certified fan of Sumo. It was really an unforgettable experience and a recommendable one as well.  If given another chance to watch it again, I would absolutely go! Hopefully next time, we get to see one of the Yokozunas in person too! I’d be looking forward to that.