Sumo wrestling...

Trip Start Feb 26, 2007
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Trip End Jun 16, 2007


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Thursday, March 22, 2007

After leaving Yumi`s, I spent two nights in Nagoya, a city that doesn`t feature on many people`s itineraries. I`d been led to believe that it was a pretty non-descript place, but I had a really nice time there, no doubt aided by the glorious weather and the fact that I had a huge twin room to myself...I spent a lot of time relaxing in the bath and swanning around my room in the complimentary dressing gown!



       I woke up early on Sunday and got the metro to Nagoya Castle, a really beautiful place set in spacious grounds. I went inside it and explored the interesting museums on each floor, before getting a crystal clear view of Nagoya from the observation deck, and seeing the mythical dolphin-like statues on the tower roof. It was such a pleasant day that I just sat on a bench for a couple of hours afterwards, reading my guidebooks and watching the hordes of people who `d come to visit the castle...

I headed into the city centre in the afternoon, had a look around the Oasis 21 complex, and went on top of its environmentally friendly "Water Spaceship" roof - a huge glass oval filled with water, designed to reduce heat transfer in the park and shops below. It offered good views of the nearby TV Tower as well, and bands played inside the shopping centre throughout the day (although most of them were terrible "R & B" efforts).

After leaving Nagoya, I went to Osaka and stayed at a unique hostel that was actually inside a stadium - it was a great place, although I got off to a bad start on arrival when I burst in on a room full of old Japanese folk, practising their ballroom dancing! There were a few sumo wrestlers staying there as well, and it seemed like members of the public were paying to come and have dinner with them in the evening. Of more interest to me was the fact that the hostel had its very own Cup Noodle vending machine, something that I`d not seen in Japan before, and therefore something that almost caused me to do a little celebratory jig when I first spotted it!

I met up with Andrea on Tuesday as she`d begged me to go to the aquarium with her (honest!), yet that didn`t stop her from being 45 minutes late! I didn`t mind though as there was no rush, and it was nice to see her again when she finally emerged wearing a rather sheepish grin.

Joking aside, I`ve wanted to go to the Osaka Aquarium ever since I read an interview with Noel Gallagher where he said "I`m telling yer, there`s a fookin whale in there!" - certainly Andrea enjoyed teasing me about that fact! Anyway Noel was right, and the whale shark was the star of the show for me, whereas Andrea seemed more excited by the fluorescent jellyfish. It certainly ranked as one of the best aquariums I`d been to...

There was yet another huge ferris wheel outside the aquarium, so we went around that before going our separate ways for the time being - we`d be meeting up again for Hiroshima on the Thursday. In the meantime, I got talking to a veteran English backpacker at the hostel who`d been travelling for 17 months, and would be embarking on another two year jaunt this September! Clare was only in Japan for two weeks, and had come to Osaka to see the sumo wrestling, and I couldn`t resist when she asked if I wanted to accompany her the next day. So after watching Mars Attacks in the TV lounge, I got some sleep ahead of a full day watching large men in nappies battle it out in the ring...

A young Australian girl called Kim, who`d actually won her trip to Japan in a competition, joined us the next morning, and off we went to the arena in Namba. For some reason, and unbenownst to us, it was a public holiday in Japan, meaning that the cheap tickets had all sold out, forcing us to pay more than we would have liked. Still I wasn`t too bothered as it`s one thing I really wanted to witness, and we had good seats directly in line with the ring, although admittedly they were quite far back. We overcame this problem in the first few hours by hopping over barriers and heading towards the vacant seats - the arena was half empty until later in the afternoon. Our cheekiness helped us to get incredibly close to the action, a little too close at times as the wrestlers came tumbling towards us, but it was fascinating to watch...

The sumo wrestlers took part in various `entering the ring` ceremonies throughout in which they`d form a circle, dressed in colourful silk aprons which were embroidered with many different intricate designs. The yokozuna, who is the number one wrestler, would then come down the aisle bearing a huge sword, and perform a spine tingling dance, lifting his legs high up in the air, before bringing each one down with a resounding stamp on the ground to symbolically drive evil away from the ring. It was awe-inspiring, and the atmosphere was electric as the fans flooded in, ready to see the big guns battle it out...

The intensity seemed to build and build until the yokozuna came to the ring for the last time shortly before 6pm, and clashed ferociously with his opponent. He eventually prevailed after a gruelling battle, with the crowd applauding whenever he, or anyone else, managed to escape from a precarious position. It really was great theatre...

After a closing dance from the yokozuna, everyone edged out of the arena and towards the ridiculously crowded subway. We`d had a great seven hours worth of continuous sumo, from a variety of different angles, and such was the enjoyment that I definitely want to go again in the not-too-distant future... 
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