Sunday, October 9, 2011

Honozumo at Yasukuni Shrine

I've mentioned here a few times that I've pretty much given up on sumo for a number of reasons. But once in a while, I get dragged back into it by a friend who has yet to see it live and asks me for help in getting tickets or other advice. Most recently, a co-worker inquired about the January tournament so I went online (using to see what was available. As I perused the options, I noticed that there was Honozumo at Yasukuni Shrine the very next day.

The Dohyo

As it was a work day, I asked for an extended lunch and a few co-workers and I took a cab over to the shrine. Yasukuni (ironically it means peaceful country) is famous throughout Asia as the place where 14 class-A war criminals are enshrined and hence is a sensitive topic among Koreans, Chinese, and others whose forebears were victims of Japan's relentless empire. There seems to be annual stories where a leading Japanese politician pays a visit to the shrine, ostensibly to honour all of Japan's war dead, but naturally the focus falls on those few whose actions brought shame to the nation and an international incident results.

Takamisakari preparing for battle

Interestingly, sumo has been through its own shameful period lately, but is slowly recovering after a particularly damning match-fixing scandal. As Honozumo is a one-day ceremonial tournament held outdoors as a gift to the gods, it felt to me like the sumo world was asking for forgiveness through this event. The gods seemed to accept this offering, as the weather couldn't have been better for this outdoor ceremony.

Tamanoshima during the dohyo-iri

Much like a jungyo tournament (these are the tours that take place between the main tournaments and offer those outside the big cities a chance to see their heroes), Honozumo has more than just sumo bouts. There are performances of jinku (sumo song), taiko drumming, and the like. All the big names are there and it attracts a good crowd despite being held on a Friday afternoon. It is free to enter and you can sit pretty much anywhere. Even arriving at noon, we had no trouble moving within a few feet of the dohyo.


We spent two hours there, catching the final bouts of Makushita, as well as those from Juryo, the Makunouchi dohyo-iri (below, with Takanoyama from the Czech Republic in the foreground), and finally Hakuho doing his own yokozuna entrance ceremony.

Bento and small bowls of chanko nabe were available as were beer and soft drinks. The event began at 9 am and finished sometime after 3 pm, making for a full day for those without the distractions of the office. Unfortunately for us, work beckoned and we missed the Makunouchi battles, but it was still an incredible afternoon. Below are three more foreign-born rikishi.

Juryo Aoiyama from Bulgaria

Ozeki Kotooshu from Bulgaria

Ozeki Baruto from Estonia

All four of my co-workers had never seen sumo live before (amazing considering three of them are Japanese) and they found it to be quite intriguing. It is definitely a great experience and if you ever have a chance, take the time to check this out. This event is held only once or twice a year so you'll have to check the sumo events page regularly to make sure you don't miss it, but if you see it listed, make a note of it and take a day off to enjoy a free display of Japan's traditional sport.



1 comment:

  1. yeah, that's thanks to this ggl search that u ended up going to this exceptional event tho.

    Unbiased Anonymous reader