Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sumo Tournament in Tokyo

A few weeks ago we ventured down to Tokyo for our first ever sumo tournament. There are 6 tournaments a year that last for 15 days, 3 of the tournaments being held in Tokyo. There are four divisions of wrestlers, but we watched just the upper division in the afternoons. The arena held in my estimation around 15,000 to 18,000 people, and it is sold out every afternoon. The arena looks very similar seating-wise to how a boxing match would look in the states...the big difference being that the first three sections you sit on mats, not seats. The first afternoon we sat on the mats in the lower section. The upper division wrestlers have a match everyday during the 15 day tournament, so we got to see our favorite wrestler twice. The basic rules of a sumo match are as follows: be the first to knock your opponent either out of the ring or have any part of his body hit the ground other than his feet. The only rules are no closed fist punches (slapping is allowed), no eye gouging, and no pulling hair. Other than that it is a free for all.
Some of the matches are over in a matter of seconds, while some last up to five minutes. Before each match the fighters go through a ritual of stretching, leg raising, foot stamping, and salt throwing (each of these things having a deeper meaning). This can go on for up to 5 minutes (the better the wrestlers, the longer it goes on). The last match of the night is always the Grand Champion. To earn this title, you must win consecutive tournaments. Once given the title of Grand Champion, if you have a losing record in a tournament you are forced to retire from the sport. That being said, anytime the Grand Champion loses, everyone in the arena tosses their mats they've been sitting onto the ring. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you're the Grand Champion), that didn't happen the two afternoons we attended. One of the highlights of the tournament was watching the wrestlers enter the arena. The better fighters were brought right to the gate in a van/taxi, while the lower division fighters had to take the subway. We got to take our picture with a couple of the lower division wrestlers outside the arena after we had lunch.
While we weren't attending the tournament we got to do some site seeing around Tokyo. We went with a couple of dentists in our clinic (one of them being Japanese) and another Japanese dentist from Okinawa. It was great having two people who could speak Japanese with us and someone who understood the Tokyo subway system. While we were out and about we visited some neat neighborhoods, which we will highlight after future trips to Tokyo.
We did venture to Kamakura (former capital just outside Tokyo), which had some neat Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. One of which housing this giant Buddha seen in the picture. Well, that's all for now. Sayoonara.


Over Christmas, we had the opportunity to spend some time with the Copeland family in Cozumel, Mexico. Although we had to travel 36 hours in a plane (total round trip) it was worth it. We had a house right by the water, and the view as you can see was fantastic. It rained off and on, but the weather was nice all in all. We went snorkeling everyday off the deck from the back of our house. One day Amy, Hunter, and I took a snorkeling tour. On it we saw a sea snake, eels, a barracuda, and a sting ray.
One day after it had been raining, we decided to go to some Mayan ruins about 15 minutes from where we were staying. The highlight of this trip was Dad getting his new shoes broken in by stepping in a huge mud/water puddle. As you can see from the picture above, I was the tour guide.
When Landry and Chris joined us we spent a day out on the beach boogie boarding, throwing the football, and playing "sand ball"...don't ask me, Hunter made up that game. On the way back from the beach, this horse was nice enough to stop and let us take our picture with it.
Fortunately, we got to eat plenty of Mexican food (kind of a scarcity in Japan...and the Midwest for that matter). And on another sidenote, our house was frequented by about 6 iguanas. They ranged in size from about 1 1/2 feet to 3 feet long.