Sumo – Up Close and Personal!

Marc and me with Kotooshu. One of these things is not like the other!

Recently, our lives have been full of Sumo, thanks to my husband, Marc’s, colleague, who is a supporter of the Sadogatake Sumo Stable.  What does this mean?  First of all, the place where Sumo Wrestlers train is called a “stable” – and each stable is slightly different, like each gym is slightly different.  The traditional methods of training are similar at each one, but they all have slight differences, like how the representative wrestlers wear their hair, what they eat, and other details.  All stables have supporters who are essentially their top fans.

The stable that Marc’s colleague supports is located in Chiba not that far outside of Tokyo.  Right after the autumn grand tournament at Ryugoku, in Tokyo, the supporters are invited to a dinner with the wrestlers.  This year we were included in the invitation.  It was held at a large hotel in Tokyo, and there were about 200 people in attendance. We got to see all of the wrestlers from the stable, both young and old, dressed in their traditional Yukata, Japanese light Kimono, see some other traditional entertainment, and also eat some good Japanese food.

This year was also extra special for the Sadogatake stable because one of their

The New Ozeki!

wrestlers was promoted to the second-highest rank of Sumo wrestling, Ozeki.  Named Kotoshogiku, he is a large, round man with a formal manner and a deep bow.  Since the dinner took place only a few hours after the tournament, he couldn’t stay long and entertain the guests, he said in a speech, because he had interviews to give.  It was an exciting time.

We did get to take a picture with Kotooshu, the stable’s highest level wrestler, a Yokozuna.  He got injured this tournament and had to bow out.  But he was smiling and gracious throughout the dinner.

But it was my husband and his colleagues that had the most interesting experience just last week.  They got to go out to the stable and watch a practice. HOWEVER, not only did they get to watch, they got to give it a try.  They all wore the traditional mawashi – that diaper-looking thing, and wrestled against actual sumo wrestlers.

Marc could not believe what phenomenal athletes these men are.  They are strong, agile, and remarkably flexible.  They train every single day except for one week after each tournament.   Think about it: they train 7 days a week except for six weeks a year, spread out throughout the year.  That makes for some incredibly in-shape men.

Marc had three matches and won his first one against a smaller wrestler, aged 16.  He said that the matches use every single muscle and joint in one’s body so that even though they’re short, they are arduous.  Doing his third and final match of the day was a struggle – he was tired!

I have been forbidden to post the pictures of the group sumo wrestling, but they are awesome.  The people from Marc’s office fit right in with the wrestlers.  Don’t you believe me?

Sumo wrestling is so uniquely Japanese that this experience for Marc has been second to none, one he will undoubtedly remember for the rest of his life.  For me, the observer, I have enjoyed every second of Marc’s glee and I’m delighted to share it with all of you.


Every now and then you come across it: a little oasis in the Tokyo that makes you forget that you’re in the middle of one of the largest urban jungles on the planet.  I was out walking with my friend Bill the other day when we came across it.  Well, I came across it – he had found it before and wanted to show it to me.  Trees surrounded the Torii Gate that represents the separation of the sacred from the profane, but it was directly between two apartment buildings, clearly part of the city.

But once we walked through the Torii, it was a different world.  Trees buttressed each other to create a cover of green.  It was a lovely shrine made of up of three small buildings and several interesting statues, including large lions at the sides.  The ground below our feet was fine dirt, not concrete at all.  We could walk down a long set of steps to the bottom part of the shrine, which included a sumo ring.  We’re not sure what or who practices sumo there, but it is clearly unmistakable as a sumo ring. Right at the bottom of a tree-lined shrine.

And then just as quickly as you entered, and walked down and through, you’re out again, on the other side of Hiroo toward Ebisu and Shibuya, as if nothing had happened.

But something has happened.  Somehow I felt refreshed.  I felt like the dust and bustle of the city had fallen off me for a few minutes.  When I emerged out of the oasis into the real world, I felt as if I could take on the masses once again.

And that, my friends, is the magic of Tokyo.