I have a confession and a declaration to make. I love sumo. I get weird looks from friends in the states when I mention this but it is a sport well worth your time. I love it so much and I’ve only been following the sport since November of last year when I noticed a tournament in Fukuoka (where my family is from) on NHK World. Besides the tournament being in my grandmother’s hometown, I remember Grandma telling me she use to love sumo and she thought some of the rikishi (wrestlers) were cute. ( Haha! Well, at least I know where I got my fangirl genes from.) Remembering her love for sumo from when I was a kid, I thought it might be interesting to watch the sport my Grandma once gushed about. I am not a sports fan what so ever but I wanted to see if watching the tournaments might give me some more clues about why Grandma loved it. I quickly became a fan of sumo myself. I know there are a lot of fans of WWE and sometimes I wonder if some of the reasons for my enjoyment of watching sumo is similar.
I watch only the top division of sumo which is called makunouchi because unfortunately, it is the only division NHK World highlights. You can watch On Demand Videos of the tournament highlights on the NHK World site. If you’re interested in the sport you should check out the previews first. The Grand Sumo Previews for the month provide updates with current information about the rikishi and interesting facts about the sumo tournaments. This month’s preview you get to see what it’s like buying a day ticket for the tournament and you get to see the cool merchandise available once you are inside. I need to save up a ton of money so I can go to Japan and buy all the sumo merchandise. Maybe one day that dream can become a reality.
The thing I love about the Grand Sumo Tournament is it takes place all year long. Every odd month sumo fans are treated to a tournament for two weeks. So no long breaks until the next season like other sports. If I did have a complaint about the short time period between tournaments, it would be the concern about the rikishi having enough time to heal when they get injured. The recent example from this might point to the new Yokozuna Kisenosato. Kisenosato was injured in March after a match with Haramafuji injuring his chest and still pulled through to win the tournament. Kisenosato still did a good job despite his injury in May’s tournament but he fought most of the time with only one arm. Maybe a little more time for rest could have helped the new Yokozuna but at least he pulled out later in the May tournament. I wonder how he will do in this month’s tournament.
Seriously though, if you have yet to hear about Kisenosato, then you should read up on this amazing rikishi. He has shown perseverance, strength, and kept a calm demeanor under all the pressure. I really admire Kisenosato and I couldn’t help but tear up when he received the trophy after being injured and still winning the March Grand Sumo Tournament. It was a hard fought and hard earned victory for the new Yokozuna. He quickly became a favorite for me as a new fan watching the sumo tournaments but to be honest I have a hard time picking favorites.
As the months pass, I find myself appreciating all of the rikishi for different reasons. Some are small and fast like Ishiura and others seem to find any way to win by defying gravity like Haramafuji. Takayasu has recently been promoted to Ozeki and for good reason. He is Kisenosato’s stablemate and I can see some similarities in Takayasu’s sumo and the way he carries himself, but it’s fun to see how he prepares himself for a match. I even love Kotoshogiku despite his recent demotion. I could say a lot more about many of the other wrestlers but I will go on forever if I start so I will save it for another post.
After taking the time to watch each tournament, it’s like you get to know these wrestlers by the way they carry themselves during a match. Some stay calm and others charge out hard from the start. You also start to see who they are by how they carry themselves after a win or a loss. It’s all very subtle but you can see their looks of determination and despite a loss, the rikishi accepts it with grace and carries on.
I have really come to admire the rikishi in the tournaments. I appreciate having these tournaments in my life and it’s nice to have a reminder about how I want to carry myself in my own life. When adversity comes my way I remember Kisenosato and stay calm and grounded like a mountain. Other times the best approach is to be flexible and agile like Ura and sometimes you just have to get feisty and go face first like Yoshikaze.
Either way, the thing that defines a rikishi the most is how one takes a win or a loss. Each accepts their win or loss with calm dignity and never gives up. There are some wonderful life lessons within the sport of sumo. I have really come to appreciate the sport and the amazing rikishi that represent it. I look forward to every Grand Sumo Tournament and a chance to cheer on these amazing athletes.
If you’re interested in dabbling in the world of Sumo take a look at the NHK World On Demand Videos. Tell us what you think. Are you a sports fan? Do you watch sumo? Put your Geeky Talk in the comments below. Thanks for reading!