We spent the earlier part of the day at the Sensoji Temple in the traditional Asakusa Area. The Sensoji temple is a lovely Buddhist temple built in the 7th century. Asakusa is the traditional part of Tokyo.
We ate in a lovely local restaurant that had horse sushi as one of the items on the menu….Paasssss….I’m not trying to get tapeworms at this stage in my life.
Next we were off to watch Sumo. I was extremely excited. There was a bit of talking going on down on the stage and I kept hearing “Yokozuna…Yokozuna….” I thought back to the good ol’ Wednesdays of my childhood of chapatis for dinner, watching smurfs after school then watching wrestling in the evening….bah – I might be mixing up days….but I do remember those WWF matches – which I would only later on in life discover to be staged.
Yokozuna! Yokozuna! It was only in Tokyo during the sumo match that I learnt that Yokozuna is a title given to wrestlers who have reached the sport’s highest rank.
I am a fan of traditional wrestling. It’s just a pity that when I was in Bolivia, I didn’t get to see the female wrestlers – the fighting Cholitas. I thought to do comparison between sumo wrestling and Senegalese wrestling – la lutte/laamb gi.
Same – same
1. Squat game on fleek- Given how huge the sumo wrestlers are, I was extremely surprised how fit they are given their large size. My favourite move during sumo would be when the fighters would squat and shuffle across the room in this squatting position. I’m carrying only a fraction of the weight each of them have and I would die if I tried this move.
2. Loin cloths….check! – If you are easily upset by the sight of people’s bums, you should not go for wrestling matches. The bare buns are even more noticeable in the Japanese context where there is a lot of flesh to be seen. I remember sending pics from the sumo match to my mum whose prebyterian church of East Africa inclinations led her to respond, “Ngai. They're just showing people their mapotties like that?"
3. Gris-gris - The sumo wrestlers were purified with salt before the match began while the Senegalese wrestlers each have their own marabout who blesses them with a liquid containing different elements for good luck. These ritual elements and the mystic nature of traditional wrestling seems to hold across different cultures.
4. Dramatic entry – Part of each match is about intimidating your opponent by showing them your strength. In sumo, the main ones seemed to be what I will call the sumo-bounce where the wrestler gets on one leg, tilts to the side and has a crazy power pose before going to the next side. In the Senegalese context, this was mostly dancing with power poses, some amazing stretches before fighting and call-response with one’s supporters to show strength and fame.
5. Rigorous training – Everything in a professional sumo wrestler’s life is planned out – their look, their way of dressing, their meals, their rigid exercise schedule. Wrestlers are not normally allowed to eat breakfast and are expected to have a siesta after lunch. They have to exercise in the morning on an empty stomach. Lunch is usually a stew with various fish, meat and vegetables served with rice and washed down with beer. The training for Senegalese wrestlers tends to be more focused on muscle gain more than weight gain, but is also quite rigid for the top wrestlers as competition is stiff and opportunities to make fortunes in la lutte are few – thus all the wrestlers are trying to be the next big wrestler. Large wrestlers train in the US where there is more advanced knowledge on bulking up.
6. Super-star/sex-idol status for the few greats – In each case, the most famous wrestlers have superstar status and are respected as local celebrities. In Japan, some of the famous wrestlers date supermodels. In Senegal, the biggest stars are recognizable faces everywhere, driving expensive cars, highly respected in the communities they come from and sometimes even getting advanced training in the US for the sport. The one interesting moment I do recall was when we witnessed 3 yokozunas coming out of a regular sized car. Maybe flossing is not that common in Japan? And that car….what type of magical stuff is it made of to not crumble under the weight?
7. Path to winning – in both cases, the winner is whoever gets any part of the other’s body to touch the ground first…knees, hands, elbows etc.
1. Size – Though both Senegalese wrestlers and Japanese sumo wrestlers are extremely strong, sumo wrestlers stand out when it comes to size. They are the largest people I have ever seen. It was quite beautiful when all the Yokozunas stood together on stage. If I had a boyfriend that size, would anyone ever bother me? I could be that chica who starts up fights in the club....just because..