Yesterday M and I joined two friends for the first day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament. There are six Grand Tournaments a year, three are held in Tokyo, and then one each in Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyushu. Sumo dates back 1500 years, and I was really excited to see something that is so tied into the Japanese culture - in fact, according to a Japanese legend, the very origin of the Japanese race depended on the outcome of a sumo match!
I was also excited that we decided to splurge on "box seats." In my mind, I was thinking box seats like at American sporting events, or at the theatre maybe - a nice private area for the four of us. In fact, I was so excited about our posh seats that I ignored my standard rule of dress for Japanese outings. If I don't know much about where we are going, I always wear pants and shoes that are easy to get in and out of, since often times you'll end up barefoot and cross-legged on tatami mats.
And that's exactly what happened, only I decided to dress up and wear a short skirt. Lesson learned. Below you can see what our box seating looked like - maybe a 4 ft by 4ft area with a cushion for each of us, all partitioned off with metal piping. And yes, you did have to take your shoes off. Honestly, I don't think there is way that this seating arrangement could have worked comfortably for four average adult Americans, it was really tight.
The tournament started at about 8:30 am, but our companions recommended that we go around 1:30 pm, as the morning was only the lower ranked competitors. The hall was still fairly empty when we arrived, but it filled up quickly as the higher ranked rikishi (literally "a gentleman of strength") began to compete.
With each match, there are a number of ritual movements they go through before they begin the match, and the highest ranked rikishi are allowed up to four minutes to ready themselves - usually a much longer time period than the match itself. The last match ended around 6 pm and aside from the numb legs, it didn't seem like we'd been there for over four hours. It was really entertaining and a great experience.