September 2008 - Honor's Guide to the Grand Sumo Tournament
It's that time of year again! 3 times a year, in May, September, and January, the Grand Sumo Tournament takes place in Tokyo. As the name suggests, this is no small affair! It is held in an area called Ryogoku which you can get to by train on the JR Sobu line. There is a special arena designed specifically for the event and outside you will see colorful flags flanking the street, each of which has a famous sumo wrestler name on it.
One of the things I love about this event is that the wrestlers, once they have had their series of fights, leave the arena and wander around the local streets, fully kitted out in traditional Japanese clothes. It's an amazing sight. On a normal day in Tokyo, you will see people suited and booted making their way to their places of business, but during this 2 week period in Ryogoku, you'll regularly spot the big guys in the train station, in local restaurants, or just heading towards you down the street. It can be quite intimidating if they're out with their friends!
Inside the arena building there is also a museum that is worth exploring if you fancy a break from the action. It tells the history of sumo, the origins and meaning of some of the rituals that you'll see, as well as artefacts from past times.
This is also a great chance to try the famous chankonabe dish that sumo wrestlers have made famous. Sumo wrestlers may look big, but the food they eat is all picked to help them add 'healthy' bulk to their bodies. Underneath the outer layers of flesh they are solid muscle and their strength can be seen in the stomps and balances that are a regular part of the sport. Many local restaurants around Ryogoku serve chankonabe stew so you can go ahead and try it for yourself while you enjoy this great day out.
For more information see TokyoTopia for costs, dates, and more.