The 7th annual Akita International Sumo Basho took place on June 5th at the Akita Budokan in Akita City. Myself and Allie signed up for the laugh and had what turned out to be one of the best days of our year here in Japan.
The tournament is run by the AJET community in Akita Prefecture and invites all foreigners and Japanese people in Akita and surrounding prefectures to experience sumo following traditional rules and guidelines.
A fantastic tournament that had us laughing and laughing and laughing.
A normal match goes like this, two names are called one from the West Wing and one from the East Wing, you step up to the ring, step over the line of salt, bow to each other, walk closer, squat down, have a stare off (or blow kisses like me and Allie), stand up, the referee orders you to take your positions, you squat again but this time place two fists behind your line on the ground, then sumooooooo. The idea is to either push/ lift/ shove your opponent out of the ring or if any part of their body (apart from their two feet) touches the ground you win. Grabbing of clothing/ hair is out of bounds and the girls decided on the day that the bone breaking kick to the knee should also be a no no no…along with the throat grab! The matches don’t last long at all, a minute or two, one mistake and you’re a gonzo.
We arrived bright and early on Sunday morning, a little nervous to check out our competition but mostly excited for wearing the nappies, or in correct terms a ‘Mawashi’. We really only came for the nappies and also thought it was a fantastic opportunity to do something that we would never get to do anywhere else in the world…grab love handles, wedgy our opponents and slap our thighs!
So after four rounds of provisional heats I was undefeated and Allie had lost just one fight. We couldn’t stop looking at each other and roaring laughing. With absolutely no prior training (other than a few tips the morning of the tournament) we had no idea what we were doing, then again neither did the other girls but it still came as a huge surprise that we headed on to the semi finals. After a tie breaker and a semi for Allie and a semi final for me, we were destined to sumo each other in the final.
Our job as finalists we were told is to ‘get the crowd going’ and to pump both ourselves and the crowd up. So here we are two best friends from Aomori in a foreign prefecture (Akita) told to rev up a crowd of complete strangers. This was too funny for us to handle.
Being a finalist means that the lead up to the match is a little different. After the step over the salt and bowing, you squat and do a kind of arm dance, then a long long stare off (which was almost impossible for us through our laughter) then you have to back out of the ring and shout at the crowd and do weird stuff like slap yourself. This was actually great fun but we went a little crazy and when we walked back into the ring to sumo I was totally out of breath.
I tossed Allie (sorry AL) outa the ring and took the Gold trophy, while she settled for a proud silver.
Delighted with ourselves we headed back up North giggling obnoxiously…very unaware of the week long muscle aches that followed.
Well worth it though, what a memory!
For more photos you can check my Facebook album throug http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150195418876426.315739.504801425&l=41aff447b9 even if you don’t have facebook you can still look!