The Japan Sumo Association confirmed the cancellation of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament due to match fixing. The last time a Grand Sumo Tournament was cancelled occurred in 1946 due to damage of the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo stadium from WWII. Certainly this cultural icon of sports has rocked the Japanese populace to its traditional core, however, to the Clampitt clan who are fond of singing “I Like Big Butts and I can not lie” prior to important matches, this cancellation is particularly disquieting.
Prior to moving to Japan, the only aspect of mild interest to me regarding Sumo involved a total fixation on how the diaper remained affixed to the wrestler. If I’m being honest, there might be another reason, that the only attire worn during this bout is a diaper. Further, the diaper, which could fall to the floor at any time, exposes an enormous buttocks. Sumo has been around for several centuries and the “Diaper” is called a mawashi. It’s 30 feet long, two feet wide and weighs between 8 and 11 pounds. Once the knot is tied in the back, it’s meant to withstand the physical abuse of an opponent sumo trying to lift the other by the mawashi to then toss out of the ring. It’s not coming off. If it does, which last occurred in May of 2000, the former wearer is automatically disqualified. One can still hope.
Next, the Clampitts love to guess when the match between the two Titans will finally take place. When watching a bout, one will notice a number of false starts. The mystery is how to know when the wrestlers will actually wrestle? First the wrestlers throw salt in the ring, followed by stomach slapping, then come the leg lifts, eventually the wrestlers get in position with knuckles to the ground. All is ready to go. AND THEN one of the wrestlers will get up and the whole ritual starts over again with the salt throwing. The stomach slapping gets louder, the leg stomps get more pronounced, and so on. We LOVE a loud stomach thump. Shouldn’t the stomach of a wrestler weighing over 300 lbs exhibit a rippling when hit? No- that’s part of what is astounding to the Clampitt clan and part of the entertainment value. Now- since you are a reader of this blog, the secret to the start. If one watches closely, a man slowly sweeps the salt away from the ring. Magically, or through ESP, he knows when the match is about to start. He sweeps through all the stomping and swatting, however, when the match is going to happen, he disappears. When he’s goes- the match will be fought. There’s where the true conspiracy lies according to the Ouiser school of liars and cheats. interestingly -I could not find one picture of the mysterious “Sweeper” while the Sumos were in the ring……
What is a sport without the heroes? We have a few favorites. There’s only one Japanese superstar in the line up – and he’s “ancient”- 40 something. Kaio Hiroyuki. Affectionately called Kaio- like KI (as in pie) -O ( as in row). Currently ranked “Ozeki” or the second highest level. A crowd favorite. The Japanese put the Yankee and Phillie fans to shame with their ability to raise the roof and create noise for Kaio. I didn’t know a people so quiet were able to make such a racket.
Next up, Baruto Kaito. Pronounced “Bart- o.” Like Bart as in Simpson and “O” as in “Oh.” The villain the Japanese love to hate. And what is funnier than an Eastern European as a Sumo? When he wins, the announcers claim it’s all due to his power because he has no skill. When he loses, of course, it’s due to his severe lack of skill. I just love Baruto because the site of him brings on the giggles.
Now- for the Master of all. Hakuho Sho- the Mongolian born Sumo champion. Hakuho holds the second longest winning streak of all time. Currently the highest ranked Sumo- Yokozuna- and a nice guy. Hakuho embodies some of the most important Japanese values- work ethic and humility. Spouse and Andretti-san have built a new and complicated time system around this particular awe-inspiring Sumo. Hakuho’s matches are at a set time, therefore, that time became “Hakuho time.” The conversation becomes:
“I’ll meet you at half past Hakuho” or “Ten till Hakuho” etc.
Please take a moment to admire Hakuho Sho:
Some gory details along with a few faux pas at Sumo are described in a long ago post (here) however, the personal loss to the Clampitts is being felt as we go through the 5 stages of mourning. Already through disbelief, I am now at anger since my itinerary for the upcoming visit with the cousins centered around the Sumo Tournament and now must be completely revamped. Damn those cheaters. We can no longer look forward to our nightly ritual during tournament season of crowding around the tv, making fun of the British announcer who makes fun of Baruto’s lack of skill, guessing when the match will actually start, trying to decide who on the sidelines belongs to the mafia, wondering if this is the match when someone’s mawashi will come off, or if this is the day the great and indestructible Hakuho goes down.
Wikipedia- Photos of Baruto Kaito, Kaio Hiroyuki, and fist image of Hakuho Sho
Niho Sumo Kyokai Homepage- Photo of Hakuho Sho
I had no idea that sumo culture was so…. well weird.
Well at least someone’s having fun with it.
I surely would not want to meet one of those guys in a dark alley, they could make mincemeat out of most small cars.
Bob- I have failed- I was hoping to spark some interest in Sumo- well-at least it did compell you to leave a comment- that’s a start…
Amazing cultural tidbit!!! 🙂 I feel like I should have started my blog when I first came to Spain 3 years ago when I was even more observant and entertained by its culture (and had waay more time to get out and explore!). You’re an inspiration!! [Insert “You’re My Inspiration” song here.]
NEVER too late!!!! People loved your post with the pictures! Did you and Dman ever go snowboarding/skiing? I’d love to hear about that- hint hint…Spain is on our list and I’m relying on you…
This was very entertaining and educational! I have to ask though, what sports your family supported before you all became such avid Sumo fans?!
Well- OS#1 always played Tournament Baseball and it’s big here too so we are big BBall fans. OS#2 plays Volleyball so we’re into that also. All track and field are followed closely. Then there’s football- the kind with the pig skin. Of course snowboarding- yes in our family it IS a legitimate Olympic sport. All- and I mean all- other sports are dabbled with or played recreationally. It leads to constant injuries and trips to the ER. Which is why I’m really a scarred bald woman- from tearing my own hair out.
It sounds like you have a really energetic family! I still can’t grasp how all these sports lead you to a love of Sumo. I’m guessing though that none of your family has the physique to participate in Sumo wrestling.
Football with a pig skin? Is that “American football”?
Yes- the pig skin is what American footballs were apparently originally made of… I think we really just like Sumo due to all the personalities, the rituals and the showmanship. Although no one has the physical prowess, some of the Clampits claim the “Heart of the Sumo”- the non-cheating ones that is.
Goodness–that’s one heck of a diaper. Fun and fascinating post! Thanks for keeping us updated on life in Japan–over-sized Pampers and all!
Hugs from Haiti,
ISN’T IT??? Hope your get away was nice….
Good lord! I think I found my calling in Life! If I take off my shirt and toss on a diaper…I will fit right in! 🙂
You’ve got the leg strength- start working on your stomach bumps- the Clampitts will investigate an intimidating Japanese name.
That’s big news, and so are they! By the way, I have officially given you the Memetastic Award. Check out my most recent post for an explanation. Omedeto!
Thanks Lisa! I’ll get write on that! Hahaha- Enjoyed your acceptance speech…