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Today my host dad and I went to Komatsu, a nearby town, where there was a day of sumo. Komatsu is what I would describe as Japanese inaka--countryside. It's a lot of nothing but rice paddies stretching on and on, but it is home to the nearest domestic airport and the Komatsu Dome, a concrete monstrosity where the event was being held.

The inside, which was this weird sand-covered astro turf (it gets used for soccer, tennis, baseball...pretty much everything) was packed.

Most people had ground seats on these horrendous cushions (which we got/had to take home with us):

For those of you who don't know much about sumo, Wikipedia is a great reference. I'll give what I know about it in brief here. Sumo is based in Shinto tradition, which is why it's full of ritual and hierarchy (for example, the wrestlers each throw salt into the ring for purification before each bout). The hierarchy of the wrestlers themselves is the most prominent. I won't go into the minutiae of the different levels, but know that the highest ranked wrestlers are called yokozuna. There's currently...3 of them in all of Japan and funnily enough I believe 2 of them are actually of Mongolian origin. They're the only ones that get to wear these weird long belts and carry symbolic katana. The rules for them are so strict that sometimes if they lose shamefully they just up and retire.

Sumo is also a lot like baseball: there's a lot of waiting around for very little action. Before wrestling there's lots of stamping of feet, squatting, getting up, smacking bellies, shouts, squatting some more, throwing more salt into the get the picture.

(Here's a leg stamping example. They're surprisingly flexible.)

Here's a bunch of sumo wrestlers getting their names called out before their matches. Those long-in-the-front belt things are just for show.

There is a fairly popular and strong wrestler called Endo, who is from Ishikawa, and when his bout came around the cheers were thunderous. Fortunately he won!

Endo is the one on the left. You win a sumo match by making your opponent step out of the ring or by having them hit the ground (hands, legs, anything other than their feet).

All in all today was a really cool day of culture and though I know there will be sumo on TV later this summer, once the major tournaments start, it was really cool to see live sumo.


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