Sumo is a lot more involved than what we had previously stipulated. In actuality, the pushing and shoving part of the fight is only a fraction of the entire ceremony. And a ceremony it is.
Our timing fell beautifully in line with the 15 day professional sumo competitions that are held three times a year in Tokyo. We debated purchasing ringside seats but settled on ones higher up due to the possible implications of having a master eater fall upon is. Clearly we chose wisely.
Sumo is an ancient religious ritual who's same traditions have been carried throughout the ages. Wrestlers greet each other in the ring, slap themselves and bow before leaving the ring to take a sip of water, swirl it around in their mouth and spit it out into a towel. Then they'll grab a handful of salt and throw it into the ring, symbolically purifying it. The cycle is then repeated over again. That alone can be done four or five times before they make physical contact. The actual wrestling can be over within a matter of seconds.
- According to tradition, wrestlers are divided between East and West. It is between those two divisions that they compete - depending on their ranking with further sub-divisions.
- The more evenly matched in wins the wrestlers are, the longer the physical contact.
- There is no weight restriction. Wrestlers can be matched up with someone twice their size. So it is in their favor to gain weight.
- Japanese sumo wrestlers once thought 'the larger the better', when in fact the extra weight made them less stable on their feet. They noticed that Mongolian wrestlers were dominating the ring at a lower weight class, and decided to cut back caloric intake to a degree.
- Even at the lower weight, however, the average life span is around 45 years.
- The water and towel each wrestler is given when going to their respective corner during the fighting ritual is provided by a wrestler who has either just won a match or one who hasn't yet stepped on the ring for the day.
- The competition is an all-day event, starting from the lowest devision, working its way up to the highest around the four o'clock hour when the near empty stadium fills to the brim with animated onlookers.
- The start of the highest ranked competition at the four o'clock hour is commemorated with a ceremony where apron clad grand champions circle around a referee as the crowd cheers on.