Last weekend saw the final bouts of the 2007 Grand Sumo Tournament in Fukuoka, Japan. The crowd was in suspense as Yokozuna Hakuho took his 5th title. I journeyed up and met my friend Yellie who is a sumo expert. She has been countless times and happily enlightened me on the subtle intricacies of the sport.
For the uninitiated, its interesting to note the several major foreign (and sometimes hairy) players. This includes a lot of Mongolians, a couple of which really dominate. The winner of this one, Hakuho, was Mongolian. His better known Mongolian compatriot Assayoryu is currently on suspension for returning to Mongolia and playing in a charity soccer match while supposed to be injured, or some such nonsense. Which everyone thinks is a grave offense and was talked about every night on the news for a couple of months. The amount of drama and scandal involved is often more interesting than the actual matches.
Sumo dates back almost 1500 years and is stepped in ceremony. Everything has meaning. At the end the winner is handed, often from feeble older gentlemen, a variety of gigantic, heavy trophies (plus a ton of money). Often the presenter halters a bit until the winner hoists away his bounty like a child’s toy. My prefecture gave an enormous vase of mushrooms that it is famous for. Other prizes included a lot of sake, a giant silver coke bottle, a large photo of himself, and various metal cups and saucers that he probably uses as dinnerware.
One of the best parts was when Yokozuna Hakuho lost a match (he went 12-3 to be the overall winner). When a Yokozuna (the highest rank and general badass) loses, it is customary for everyone to throw their cushions about and yell. Very fun.