Okinawa has its own style of sumo, which is actually different from Japanese sumo. This post focuses on Japanese sumo. I should add a post for Okinawa-style sumo sometime.
This year, for the second time, the national sumo association is doing an exposition in Okinawa at the Convention Center in Ginowan. It was my first time to see mainland sumo in person, so it was pretty exciting. Obviously my experience is nothing like the real tournaments and arenas in the mainland, but it was fun nonetheless. I can’t talk much about rules or certain wrestlers, just my experience as a regular person watching sumo for the first time.
I purchased the tickets at FamilyMart in advance, like with any other concert, event, or sports ticket here in Okinawa. My husband also decided he wanted to get the pre-order omiyage set with the bento, cushion, and other goods. The tickets and omiyage set were not cheap, but I figure it might be the only chance we have to go to sumo, so might as well enjoy it to the fullest.
When we arrived on Saturday, all of the flags were lining the path and there were some food/drink and souvenir vendors outside. When we showed the tickets we got wristbands so we could leave and re-renter the venue; very convenient! Shoes were removed as soon as you stepped inside and put into a little bag. We also picked up our omiyage set just inside the door. Although the arena is small, it was filled with excitement.
We were escorted to our “box” which in this case was taped out on the floor; in a real arena it would be an actual tiered areas and separated from your neighbor by some bars. When I bought tickets, I bought the ペアマス Pair masu (mat), which is admission for 2 people where you sit in 1 “box” containing enough space for people to sit on cushions. Since we only got 1 omiyage set with 1 cushion, I brought along my zabuton 座布団 (Japanese flat seat cushion) that I purchased from the Daiso. You could purchase the souvenir sumo cushion for 1000yen at the venue, but I figure I saved myself 900yen.
When we settled into our seats, we checked out the omiyage set お土産セット. It came with quite a bit; the sumo cushion, a calendar, 2 rice bowls, a souvenir poster of all the sumo wrestlers, a bottle of tea, and a deluxe bento all in a nice bag that could be reused. We removed the cushion and food/drink, then my husband ran the bag back to the car so it wouldn’t take up space in our box (because honestly, the boxes were not the big).
We did not arrive at opening time since there were several hours of practice and such going on; I just couldn’t imagine hanging out for a total of 7 hours. We arrived during the last portion of the practices, so it was closer to a total of 4.5 hours in the arena for us.
After the practices ended, the kids sumo started; this where the very small kids in training come out and play with the wrestlers. It is actually a bit hilarious. Next was some more practice, and then the shokkiri 初切 (comic sumo performance). They also brought out the guy that demonstrated how to tie the wrestler’s hair, and some of the wrestlers demonstrated how to tie the yokozuna’s belt.
Finally it was time for some of the ceremonial stuff; there were processions in, introduction of wrestlers, singing, drumming, etc. The yokozuna were brought in separately and postured for the audience.
The tournament now began; wrestlers came down the aisle, were introduced, threw salt, etc. The bouts were fairly short, though we did get quite a few exciting ones that lasted longer, much to the hoots and hollers of the audience. Some were pushed out of the ring, others tossed. One almost landed in the audience. At the end of each bout the referee recognized the winner. At the end of the tournament, the tournament winner performed a bow-twirling and afterwards was rewarded with cash, a barrel of nihonshu 日本酒 (Japanese sake), and a slab of pork.
The nice part about the set up in the arena is that you can get up and walk around, get refreshment, use the restroom, stretch your legs at pretty much any point. At any time, only about 60-70% of people were actually seated, and it was common to mill about.
photos on imgur link below: