This is the last day we are all together in Japan. Tomorrow we head back to Australia :-( and Daniel and Sarah head off to Kyoto.
At 12.00 we met together outside the Ryogoku Kokugikan. Located right next to the Tokyo Edo museum which we visited a couple of days ago, this is the arena which is the Tokyo home of Grand Sumo.
The bouts have been going on since early morning but by the time we arrive they are still working through the junior grades. There are two fourteen day tournaments held here each year. We have come on day six of the first tournament for the year.
We are all seated Japanese style in small enclosures which each house four people. There are only seven of us but the extra space is used to store all the 'picnic' supplies we have brought along with us to keep us sustained and suitably relaxed. We have an excellent view of the dohyo, a raised platform with a clay surface, while overhead there is a suspended roof of the sort found in Shinto temples.
We watch the ceremonial entrance of the intermediate division (Juryo) and then the bouts that follow.
Then the senior division (Makuuchi), who are professional Sumo, have their ceremonial entrance.
After this it gets increasingly exciting as the more accomplished Sumo have their bouts. The final and most exciting part of the evening is the last bout. The current champion and national celebrity Hakuho remains undefeated tonight.
Here are some movies of the final bout (If you listen carefully you can hear some enthusiastic barracking from Joss in Japanese)
I realise that there is incredible skill in this sport. Whilst some of the contestants are definitely obese, for the most part they are really solid, powerful guys. Some of them, such as the Bulgarian Baruto, have really imposing physiques. Sumo is definitely a sport of speed, cunning, agility, balance and mental toughness. The bouts themselves are usually over in a matter of seconds, when one or other wrestler is manoeuvred outside the rope circle on the dohyo or onto the surface of the dohyo. The posturing and 'psyching up' that precedes the actual physical contact can go on for quite some time. It is highly ritualised and this builds up the suspense and tension until the moment the opponents explode into action against each other.
Check out some more Sumo photos
After the day's tournament was over the girls managed to get a photograph with Wakanosato the Juryo who unsuccessfully fought the current champion this evening. After this we enjoyed a happy and noisy train ride to Shinjuku.
Shinjuku on a Friday night is THE place to be - bright mlights, crowds, action. Definately makes you want to party. We had dinner and then decided to expend our alcohol-fuelled energies with something special: KARAOKE!!!
We found a promising looking establishment in the Kabukicho area. We hired two hours in a great room on the 7th floor with large glass windows overlooking Yasakuni-Dori.
Has this family got talent by the truck-load especially after a day of relaxing and drinking! Several of us could probably begin thinking of entering 'X Factor' right now!!
I'm pretty confident that a number of my stirring renditions of popular favourites from 'The Sound Of Music' would be highly regarded. Diane provided us with a sample of her backing skills during some of Peter, Paul & Mary's well-loved hits.
And no, 'Where have all the young girls gone' is a purely rhetorical question. I could go on and list everyone's individual talents but I think the photos speak for themselves.
Once our timeslot was over we intended to move down to the foyer and out into Yasakuni-Dori. It seems our fame had preceeded us as there was an enthusiastic crowd of well-wishers in the foyer. For a few moments we enjoyed the thrill of being Shinjuku celebrities.
As it was nearing midnight, we farewelled Paul & Joss, Daniel & Sarah and headed back for our last night at Nishi Shinjuku. The following day was the beginning of our journey back home.
-- Post From Geoff's iPhone