Monday, April 10, 2006

A Big Day for Yoghurt

Well, I finally did it: after a year and a half of living in Japan I finally went to see a sumo tournament.
I'm absolutely nuts about sumo - I only got into it when I came to Japan, but I was hooked as soon as I saw my first tournament on TV. I think part of the reason I got into it so quickly was because there was absolutely nothing else to watch, since most Japanese TV shows are utterly abysmal.
Speaking of awful TV, when I first arrived I couldn't understand anything they were saying on those crazy Japanese TV shows, but now that I've picked up a bit of Japanese I can understand a good portion of what's going on - which has actually reduced the entertainment value. Before I could at least try and guess what was going on in the chat shows, and I'd spend hours fascinatedly trying to figure out what the hell all the shouting was about. Now I know what it's about and I can't understand why they bother shouting it. About 90 per cent of Japanese shows are either about food, or about intensely annoying minor celebrities playing endlessly protracted 2-hour game shows, or a combination of the two. They usually go something like this:
Host: "Everyone, look at this fish!"
Talent #1: "Looks delicious!"
Talent #2: "Yes, looks delicious!"
Host: "It's actually deadly poisonous puffer fish!"
Talent #1: "You lie!"
Talent #2: "Looks delicious!"
Host: "Now the first person to eat it without dying wins an alarm clock!"
Actually, that was a lot more interesting than the actual TV shows. In fact I'd probably watch more Japanese TV if all the shows were like that. But I digress.
Anyway, I got into sumo because I could easily understand what was going on, and there was nothing else on telly. I started doing a bit of research on it and before I knew it I knew more about sumo than most of the Japanese teachers in my office. (For example, did you know that, among other things, there's a squid buried in the middle of a sumo ring? Presumably it's dead. Why you'd want to know that I've no idea)
Seeing sumo live was actually even more exciting than I thought it would be - in fact, everyone I went with, even the ones who weren't into sumo at all, said they were surprised by how exciting it was. The actual matches only last about 30 seconds, but there's hundreds of matches each day of the tournament so you never get bored. It's the perfect sport for people with short attention spans - it's all over before your attention has time to wander.
The highlight of the day was the match between Kotooshu - the "David Beckham of sumo" - and the huge 175kg Iwakiyama. We'd all taken "David" to our hearts, especially since he was struggling with a knee injury and desperately needed a win. Also, I think the girls were supporting him because he's a 203 cm tall Bulgarian with muscles like tree trunks. Initially "David" was pushed to the edge of the ring by the bulk of Iwakiyama, but some crafty sidestepping let him spin the 'yama like a top and dump him to the ground - you had to be there to hear the cheer that went up.
I'll think I'll bring a Bulgarian flag next time. And a pot of yoghurt of course (see below).


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