Sumo

One of my favorite things about Japan is how close one is able to come in contact with the magnificent. Ancient thousand year old shrines,temples, and trees, perfect masters of arts who are famous around the world, places bearing enormous historical significance–in their mere presence you can feel their power like an actual force permeating the space around you. Yet this intense significance is coupled with an ability to be in direct contact with it. No smoke and mirrors, no television screen separating you from the world. You can be in direct contact with our legendary masters and powerspots if you seek them out.

A certain element of this experience can be felt through attending sumo matches. The sport has an almost spiritual air in its purity that transcends the normal world, and yet it doesn’t transcend, because you are there, witnessing it firsthand. Japan shows one that there are places and people with almost unbelievable levels of purity and power, and yet they possess such a level of ordinariness that they can all be seen, felt, and taken apart if you approach them. Japan teaches one that magic does exist, but that there is nothing “magical” about it. Extraordinary in the ordinary and ordinary in the extraordinary.

1D4A1151The Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium (大阪府立体育会館 )

Sumo tournaments occur only a few times a year. This arena in Osaka is one of the venues that is used.

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Full house. The raw earth ring in the middle stands in contrast to the rest of the ring in the city of manmade pavement, steel, and electric cables. Above the ring is a shinto roof, designating the that ground below is holy turf. Above this, the rising sun.

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Sumo events take place throughout an entire day, and the professional rounds do not begin until after lunchtime. In the morning are the amateur rounds and the stadium is quite empty. You can sit right up in the front row seats if you want, and its cool to be right up and close to the ring if you didn’t blow the cash on a reserved seat for the professional rounds.

The goal is to either knock the opponent out of the ring or to have him lose balance and fall to the ground. There is only one round per match and  thus wrestlers have one chance and only one chance to defeat their opponent. It is to me a symbol of human life to which all of us mortals can relate.

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When one typically thinks of a sumo wrestler, one often assumes that the more obese one is, the better. Indeed, many of the wrestlers actually have a higher number of kg weight than the do number of cm tall! However, this is not the ideal build, and being fat and immobile can actually be quite a disadvantage. What matters most is power and balance.

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 Pictured above, the professionals taking the stage. The pros are treated as demigods and are given the highest treatment human beings can receive. One can only imagine how they live outside of the ring. They are not arrogant, but their presence seems to naturally draw out respect and reverence from others. It is like standing in the presence of a mountain.

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Emerging from his car to enter the stadium, my favorite wrestler, Kotoōshū Katsunori. He is of Bulgarian descent and is one of the best. All wrestlers are given sumo names to replace their birthnames, a practice similar to the donning of a new name when one becomes a Buddhist monk. Transcending the earthly realm.

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     Kotoōshū Katsunori

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