Friday, March 25, 2005


Who ate all the pies?

So, it's Sumo time at the moment in Osaka as the March tournament is in full swing. It finishes Sunday, so time's running out if you haven't seen it yet...

Anyway, I hauled ass down to watch the fun and games again today (I went last Friday too) and it was definitely one to remember.

The origins of Sumo are religious and a great deal of ritual is observed during the course of the day's events. The bouts themselves only occupy a fraction of the time, compared to the amount of salt throwing, foot stamping and other such tomfoolery that goes on. An equal amount of ritual goes on in the McKeown-Horowitz box, where Andrew (aka Osakajoe) and I gamble on the outcome of the matches. I take all of the rikishi (wrestlers) on the higashi (East) side of the ring, while Andrew makes do with nishi West.

So, while the wrestlers are psyching themselves up, we are getting ourselves in the swing of things (and giving the neighbouring Japanese a crash course in toilet-mouthery) with some of the following handy phrases:

Abusing your opponent's rikishi
My guy's gonna
(shave your guy's head with a belt sander.)
(hollow your guy out and spend the Summer in him with his family.)
(be tried as a war criminal under the Geneva Convention for what he's gonna do to your guy.)
(put your guy in an iron maiden full of driver ants.)
(pour petrol over your guy's head, then smash him in the knee with a paperweight.)

Pretty disturbing stuff, especially when you consider that this went on for around six hours (and four hours last Friday.)

The real talking point of the day, however, came at the very end. However, in order to properly explain it, it is necessary to teach a little Sumo background first.

The highest rank of rikishi is yokozuna. The current yokozuna is Asashoryu of Mongolia, who has dominated the sport for the last two years and won last year's Osaka tournament with a perfect 15 wins. Today was the 13th day of this year's tournament, Asahoryu had triumphed in all twelve of his previous matches and looked unstoppable. His opponent in the day's final bout was Tochiazuma, whose record for this year's tournament thus far stood at a rather more modest seven wins against five defeats.

Asashoryu looked imperious in the preparations for the bout and I was all but sure that he was going to prize Tochiazuma's mouth open with a car jack and force feed him a spadeful of hot gravel (bear in mind that Asashoryu was fighting out of the East corner, hence my guy.)

At the tachi-ai (initial clash), Asashoryu forced his opponent back and looked like he was going to secure a no-fuss victory. Suddenly, Tochiazuma got a decent purchase on the yokozuna's belt and, briefly, it looked like he might be able to topple him. Asashoryu reacted quickly to regain his balance and drove his opponent to the edge of the ring but Tochiazuma somehow pulled out the unlikeliest of hip-tosses to send Asashoryu sprawling, coming out of the ring with him. The referee, in one of the most baffling decisions I've ever seen, raised his arm to the Eastern side of the ring, signalling victory for Asashoryu.

This clearly wasn't on. The attendant judges descended on the ring (or, rather, ascended to the ring) and discussed the matter at great length. The crowd were loving this; all around the basho, people were clapping and chanting Tochiazuma's name. It was superb, but nothing compared to what followed.

The judges ordered a rematch.

Both wrestlers stepped up to the ring and went through their preparations again. Asashoryu still appeared as calm and confident as ever, but his aura of invincibility had evaporated and the momentum was now with his opponent.

Sure enough, in the second bout Tochiazuma, bursting with confidence, seized the bewildered yokozuna by the belt and unceremoniously bulldozed him from the ring to bring the house down.


Seating cushions flew down towards the ring from all around the basho, submerging the poor saps at the front who'd paid top dollar for their seats. The vanquished Asahoryu made a hasty exit with the roars of the delighted crowd ringing in his ears. I've never seen anything quite like it in my life. The poor guy who was conducting the day's closing ceremony, the intricate "bow dance," had to do so in the face of a barrage of airborne cushions and got hit several times.

It was simply breathtaking. And I finished the day a couple of hundred yen ahead of Andrew in the betting. And now I'm off to watch Japan vs Iran in the football. Yoshi!

fucking xenophobes. motherfuckin Iran got revenge. and not even with their supposed nuclear capabilities.--vmm
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