Well we arrived to see the crowds milling round the entrance to watch the wrestlers come in. Most came by public transport, but one or two were in taxis. You could tell who the big names were as they seemed to have small gaggles of groupies. All nice and friendly though.
Inside, the place is larger than you expect. Our seats (didn’t realise we were paying so much at the time – should have gone for the 3600 yen ones) are very comfortable, have a mini table, plus a bar upon which you can support a camera with long lens. The next tier up (the mid price seats, which were sold out a few days ago) are simlar sized, but no table or bar. The ones right at the back (the cheap ones) are plastic. By part way through our viewing we knew we’d actually made the best decission with our seats. One thing to consider if you ever do visit a basho. Either bring a FM radio or hire one on site. The cost was 2000 yen deposit and 100 yen charge (so 50p over all). There is an English commentary during the main set of fights, which is really well done.
We entered part way through the equivalent to the second tier of fighters. A fight is a lot of ritual followed by the action. There are at least 2 sets of thowing salt in to the ring and foot stomps, followed by bending down, before the fight actual starts. It seemed that certain stomping actions excited the crowd, I’m still not sure what, but assume the wrestlers doing this were crowd favourates. Also throwing large qunatities of salt over a large distance also brought applause. It should be noted that later, when the top tier fights were held, there as none of this flamboyance.
Post break we prepared to watch the top tier of fighters. This started with a double procession in, first of those fighting on the east of the arena, and then when they had left, the same for those on the west. This was then followed by a champion from each side doing some ritual moves (how the champion is chosen we’re not sure). Post this the matches started. The difference in skill levels was quickly appreciated as most of these lasted 20 seconds plus, some over a minute. The one or two that did not were very quick and one-sided with a new entrant in to the top tier losing on both ocasions. The favourate this year is a Bulgarian known as Kotooshu. He is expected to be the first champion from Europe, repolacing the long term one who is Korean. Previously there had also been a long term Hawian, so how the Japanese feel about a lack of a local tallent I’m not sure. The funny thing is, all three of the top entrants lost their fights, though Kotooshu could still wrap it up a day early.
The sumo was an awful lot of fun. It’s one of those things that while you’re there the atmosphere draws you in. I’m not sure regular attendance would maintain this interest, but once every basho or so should maintain the interest levels.