Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Japan - The first sumo

Hello everyone!

So we didn't wake up for the fish market. What did happen, however, was a trip to Asakusa Market. As I said before, this is the more traditional part of Tokyo, so there was little in the way of Western shops and outlets infiltrating the market area, which was nice. This was our first view of Tokyo in the daytime. And what a view. The market was packed full of people, ranging from sightseers to schoolkids; yet it still retained its green, spacious feel. The shops were full of various trinkets and souvenirs, some of which were not allowed to be touched. Such as this mask I am wearing. Naughty. Ellen was caught in the act and told to put it back. Some of you may feel that my face looks better with that grotesque mask covering it. All I will say is that you are entitled to your (stupid and wrong opinion).

Some of the other shops also sold some strange products; either that, or we came across our first 'bad' English of the trip. We can't validate it, as it was shut (!), but the sign really does suggest that it specialised in 'ice cream burger'. Go figure. I did spend a whule thinking about it. Salivating over it, actually. But not literally. Japan is cleaner than Korea - on the grounds that they have actual bins - so drolling may have been frowned upon.

It definitely would have at the other main attraction of the Asakusa area - the Sensoji Temple. It is a famous Buddhist temple, allowing us to wish Buddha a happy birthday, and very pleasing on the eye. Japan's architecture seems a lot more creative and individualistic than Korea. Ellen likes architecture stuff, and was pointing out lots of interesting buildings. Definite advantage of travelling with somebody more culturally-minded than me, as I wouldn't have noticed these things.

Time was moving along, so we opted to enjoy the perfect weather and walk to our next destination - Ryogoku. Via another temple and having a quick play on the swings. The swings under a highway. Yes, a highway. We also saw a man sleeping, which is more along the lounes of what I expect to see under a highway. All underpasses should have swings and slides under them, period.

As arranged the previous night, we were meeting my friend Fumy in Ryogoku. Fumy is a good friend of mine from the TEFL course we completed in Prague in August '08. She is Japanese, and we were delighted to have the chance to cross paths again. Awesome girl. We waited for her in that Japanese place...McDonald's, in Ryogoku.

I haven't even told you why we were in this part of Tokyo yet. I'm surprised, such was my excitement about going. I'll let the picture tell the thousand words.

Yes folks, going to sumo now has a big sumo-wrestler-sized tick next to it on my bucket list. Many of them take a pre-fight meal in that Japanese place...McDonald's. We lucked out massively for this. There are only three sumo tournaments a year in Tokyo, and we had unwittingly come to Japan during the final weekend of the May event. Fumy sorted out the tickets for us, and we were soon inside soaking up the tradition and atmosphere.

Fights start at 8am, but most arrive for the big-name fighters who enter the dohyo in the late afternoon. We stuck around for about 3 hours, which is plenty - it can get a bit repetitive. As far as we're aware, and I'm no sumo expert, we only saw one of the major players - Takamisakari, aka Mr. Roboto. He is famous and successful, but his recent fame is due to his commercial activities. He is the face of a big brand of ramen (noodles). Looking at his size, he must get a few free samples. He is also famous for his spectacular pre-fight ritual, which includes chest pounding, face slapping, stomping, and throwing loads of salt. It certainly revved up the otherwise dormant spectators. After the epic build-up, it was a shame to see him get beaten so convincingly by a guy in a purple nappy.

I had been looking forward to the sumo more than anything else before departing on this far-too-brief vacation, and I wasn't disappointed. A great, strange thing to watch. And Friday night wasn't too shabby either...

Love you all


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