Before you scroll any further, let me just advise you that there is a lot of bum ahead .
Now, you have been pre-warned.
We were lucky enough to get a hold of some tickets for a sumo wrestling tournament being held in Tokyo in January. As sumo wrestling is Japan’s national sport, these tournaments are extremely popular and tickets sell out within less than 10 minutes online. We missed out on the ring side seats where spectators sit on cushions on the floor beside the ring. It is quite a precarious spot to sit in with potential risk of a wrestler landing on you. Only suitable for those that can think fast when a large object is flying into their vicinity. We got box seats which cover most of the stadium and generally sit 4 spectators on cushions on the floor. It’s a snug fit for 4 people and you generally have to keep shifting around when you can no longer feel the lower half of your body. It is also possible to purchase balcony seat tickets on the day which are on the second floor and have some western-style seats, however the queues are crazy long so I suggest you start queuing early.
So how does it all work? The rules are simple: the wrestler who exits the ring or touches the ground first with any part of his body besides the soles of his feet loses. Matches take place on an elevated ring made of clay and covered in a layer of sand. The preparation for the bout lasts a few minutes with time for the wrestlers to build up the crowd and perform ancient rituals such as throwing salt to purify the ring, stamping their feet to get rid of the bad spirits and drink water to cleanse their bodies . A contest usually lasts only a few seconds, but in rare cases can take a minute or more. With no weight restrictions or classes in sumo, it means that wrestlers can easily find themselves matched off against someone a few times their size. Therefore, weight gain is an essential part of sumo training. In saying that, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. We witnessed a few bouts with smaller wrestlers overthrowing their larger opponents.
Like they say, size doesn’t matter.