Sumo wrestlers are truly in a league of their own.
If you want to get a sense of just how mighty sumo wrestlers are, why not watch The September Basho held between September 9 and 23 September? The venue: Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall, which lies a mere two-minutes from Ryogoku station (JR) or a five minutes from Ryogoku metro station (Oedo subway line).
The September Basho is one of the year’s six Grand Tournaments. During it, the most formidable sumo wrestlers in Japan, and so the world, clash in the tight four-and-a-half-metre confines of the ring (dohyo).
Belly to belly, deploying throws, trips and tricks, the giants stomp and strive to bounce each other from the circle or toss one another onto the mean clay floor while fanatical crowds urge them on.
Sumo is Japan’s top sport. Drenched in history and legend, it contains more subtlety than you might think. Similar to chess, it features over 70 moves and forms that a contestant must master to stand a chance of becoming a grand champion (Yokuzuna). Backdrop details, including the symbolic scattering of salt before each bout and the sceptre-like fan gripped by the referee (Gyoji), underscore sumo’s pedigree.
If you go to Autumn Basho, you can sit on anything from a plain cushion on the balcony (isu-seki) to a corporate-style box-seki at the back of the arena with a 10,000 spectator capacity. The best seats in the house lie nearest to the titanic action. Better theatre than kabuki, some might say.