One night in Osaka - and Sumo Wrestling!

Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Saturday, March 28, 2009

We woke up, packed up and left the tour club in Kyoto - they gave us a gift of a pair of chop-sticks each, lovely people! We hopped on a train to Osaka, and we spent 45 minutes looking out of the window, trying to take in as much as we could. We managed to find our next hostel, J-Hoppers, in Fukushima, just one stop from Osaka station, and thankfully they had our sumo tickets - yipeeee ! We dropped off our backpacks - wow they are heavy - and hopped onto the JR loop line, which circles around Osaka and made our way to Osaka-jo koen (Osaka castle gardens).

There don't seem to be as many blossoms out in Osaka as there were in Kyoto, in fact Osaka is a pretty modern looking town, it was flattened in WWII and is the industrial/business hub of Japan (after Tokyo of course). Its also a port town, but we didn't get to see that bit. I was a bit disappointed because I'd got used to wandering around Kyoto and stumbling on little Japanese gardens and immense Japanese roofs, but here it's more like Tokyo - Neon lights and adverts. We decided it's a bit like Birmingham - a second city and a bit rough around the edges.
The Osaka castle was pretty impressive, a proper white castle up a hill, made of concrete. Inside it's suprisingly modern - there are lifts and it looks like a hotel ! We were expecting old wooden staircases and dusty corners. They have some displays of the various battles in Osaka and a great viewing gallery at the top where we looked out over all Osaka.
Our tummies were rumbling so we hopped back on the JR loop line and headed to Namba station in the south, and from there we found Dotombori, an area with lots of shops and places to eat. There were massive plastic crabs and inflatable fugu fish coming out of the tops of buildings. Dotombori Arcade has an atmosphere a little like Piccadilly Circus. We found an interesting place, where no-one spoke English, but they had pictures of the food and we managed to get hamburgers and miso soup with hot oolong tea. It was good fun watching Paul eat a hamburger with chop-sticks!

From there it was a short walk to the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium to watch the Sumo wrestling, something I have been looking forward to for ages. We knew we were on the right track when we walked past a couple of sumo wrestlers in their kimono - they are big blokes !

Our seats were on the 2nd level but we had a great view. Today was day 13 out of the 15 day tournament and there were lots of families with excited kids, the little boys in front of us were swapping their sumo cards like english kids swap football cards and they knew all the names and shouted them during the bouts - which helped us find out where we were in the programme ! There were some British guys sitting behind us and they'd managed to turn each bout into quite a complicated drinking game, they were a bit loud and left all their rubbish behind - tut - I nearly told them off !!
In my limited understanding - Each sumo wrestler is ranked by an official body, at the moment there are two wrestlers at the top rank: Yokozuna, and they are both Mongolian, Asashoryu and Hakuho. It looked like there were a couple of western wrestlers, which surprised us. In the last 300 years there have only been 69 Yokozuna's so it's quite an honour. All of the wrestlers are paired off into matches throughout the day, working up through the ranks and ending with the top groups from around 3pm-6pm. Each wrestler only fights for a few minutes and before they fight they both face the crowd and clap - to get the attention of the gods, then they put their palms up - to show they have no weapons and they lift up each leg (some of these big guys were almost doing the splits) and stamp their feet down to ward evil out of the ring. They then do this facing each other and then face each other in a cold stare. They then move back to their corners and rinse their mouths with water, wipe their faces and there's lots of slapping themselves, working the crowd and throwing salt into the ring (supposed to prevent injury).

In the last three matches Miyabiyama (a massive bloke, of lower rank) faced Harumafuji (a thin guy) - Harumafuji quickly got Miyabiyama out of the ring - proving that size isn't everything! We saw lots of different moves, one sumo just ducked out of the way as the other approached and he went running out of the ring. We saw two tumble out of the ring and squash people in the crowd !
The Penultimate match: Kotooshu faced Hakuho (yokozuna) and Hakuho threw Kotooshu out of the ring in an impressive rolling throw - Hakuho had won all 13 matches in the tournament
Finally Asashoryu met Kaio, and in a couple of seconds it looked like Kaio gave up and stepped out of the ring.

At the end there was a bow ceremony, a bow (as in bow and arrow) was given to one of the lower ranked sumo and he did an impressive dance with it. The whole ceremony was really interesting to watch, there was constantly something to look at - the referees change for each bout and they each wear different costumes according to their seniority. I would recommend going to a match if you can get tickets when you're in Japan, we had a brilliant time. We got our tickets from, check them out.

We walked back to Dotombori and bought some Takoyaki - fried dumpligs with octopus in - this is a popular snack here, we saw people queue for it earlier in the day, and they were yummy, very hot and covered with japanese mayonnaise.

Back on the loop and back to the hostel via the 7-11 for another pot noodle and green tea supper !

For anyone who has not stayed in a hostel before, I wanted to explain a little what they are like, in Japan at least. In my mind I had an image of a stinky dormitory with loud drunk people playing music til late. In fact everyone we have met has been very polite and even timid. The J-hopper's hostel here in Osaka is very clean and has a communal kitchen where we made a pot of tea and read the paper. There is free wifi in the rooms, which makes me happy, I am trying very hard to break my habit with facebook, but the obsessive checking of hotmail will never go away!

The communal shower isn't as bad as it sounds either, a nice clean hot private shower, and a little basket outside where people leave things they can't carry any more - like nearly empty shampoo etc - very useful.
Of course ear-plugs and an eye-mask help, but I'm really enjoying the experience and hope to meet some interesting people along the way.
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danielbevis1982 on

chunky cuddlers
Another superb update - your sumo action shots are amazing!

rfbevis on

somuch sumo!
What an amazing must have been fantastic to watch.

Love Ma

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