Osaka, Fat Men Slapping Each Other and Everyone Speaks English

6 times a year there`s a big Sumo competition in Japan, 3 times it`s in Tokyo, once in Nagoya, once in Osaka and the last it`s somewhere in Kyushu.

We went to see the Osaka tournament last week.
Now, I know what you`re thinking, Sumo is just a bunch of fat guys slapping each other and trying to push each other over, well…yeah, that`s pretty much it. But! It`s very enjoyable, and by the end of it, I was beginning to see who was skillful and who was using different techniques.

Like the skinny fella facing off against the huge monolith, we were just waiting for him to get squashed, when the fella sitting next to us (very lovely man, who like most Japanese old men I seem to meet, has been to the Lake District and loves England), told us the skinny fella has great technique. So we waited in baited breath throughout the 10 minute salt throwing, leg raising, slapping warm up where they try to psyche each other out,and then…they sprang to life! The big fella ran at the little one, who skillfully with great technique side stepped out the way, slapped the fatty on the back who ran out the ring. Game to skinny bloke. Beautiful.

We sat up in the cheap seats (about £15) but you still get a decent view as the venue isn`t that big (I`ll stick some photos up later).
We could have sat in the small box areas around the ring, but
a) they were £45, and
b) they were tiny, and you have to sit on the floor.
Don`t think my legs would have survived.

There`s lots of ceremony, and almost dancing, one of the wrestlers did his speciality of lifting his leg almost above his head (to great applause) and stomping it back down. (The stomping is to wake up the gods apparently, and the salt throwing is to purify the ring, the rest of the proceedings is psychological warfare against your opponent).

We stayed till the end, when the champion had a fight, and lost, so people started throwing their cushions into the ring, and around the crowd (in excitement or disgust, not sure). Then some bloke came on in a nice outfit and did an elaborate dance with a bow, while the audience ignored him, and left the building (I stayed, as I felt sorry for him).

Great fun, and from what I gather about a lot of Japanese entertainment (Kabuki, baseball – more of that later, etc.) the main event is not that important, it`s more to do with sitting with friends, drinking, eating and chatting.
Very relaxed atmosphere. If you get the chance, I highly recommend it, but only go for the boxes if you can sit cross legged or on your knees for 4 hours!

Oh, about the speaking English thing. The ol` fella next to me, had been to England several times and spoke a bit of English, the guy next to him was chatting quite fluently with some girl from the North of England, and just as we were leaving the Japanese man who was sitting on my right, leant over to me and said, in very good English, “You speak very beautifully” – turns out he lived for a while in Henley on Thames and Slough! (poor bloke).

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