Somewhere between Sapporo and Kyoto we stopped at a pay phone to inquire about rooms. Instead of showing up without a reservation, we’d try calling first and arrange something in advance. Unfortunately, in our streak of bad accommodation luck, we just couldn’t find anything available. Eventually, tired of getting laughed at, I asked someone at the other end of the line if they could suggest somewhere that wasn’t full. The answer: “try Osaka”.
Resolute to not try Osaka (we had already been there on a previous trip) and to not show up in Kyoto without a room, we changed our plans and headed for Tokyo instead. Our reasoning: it’s a much bigger city, and the chance of rooms being unavailable were slimmer. Our luck had turned, and we were able to find a room in our previous hotel without any problem.
So, back in Tokyo and having a weekend to blow, we had to find something to do. To Travis’ delight, we just happened to be in town for aki basho, one of the professional sumo tournament at the renowned Ryōgoku Kokugikan sumo hall. Having always wanted to attend one, Travis was determined to get tickets. It was a bit pricey, but I agreed to go along for the experience.
We decided to walk to the stadium instead of taking the trains (Travis having already secured tickets). On our way there, we detoured to the Matsuchiyama Shoden temple, a temple obsessed with daikons that I had really liked years ago. It was still as cute as ever.
Sumo tournaments lasts for 15 days, and every day is many hours long. Our tickets were for day 9, and we arrived in time for the later part of the day to catch the more important fights. Outside there were large crowds waiting for sumo contenders (in their yukatas and sandals) to come out of the hall. Inside, the place wasn’t packed but the energy was good.
I will not attempt to explain sumo, nor their strange rituals. But know that it is very much associated with Shinto (a Japanese religion) and that the mount on which they fight is sacred. The stuff that the wrestlers throw is salt, to purify the ring. There are many other cool rituals, such as the winner of a bout having to offer water to the next fighter, along with other things that I didn’t really understand.
What I liked most about watching sumo is that it’s easy to understand. It’s quick and obvious, and so it’s easy to get into even if you know nothing about it. And watching a very large man fly through the air was impressive. In all, I had a blast and I’m glad that I went!