Land of the Giants

Hello Everybody,

I am a little late in getting this written but my last month has been busy on a whole new level.  So thanks to the wonderful gift, I was able to go to the Grand Sumo Tournament in Fukuoka on November 24.

outside the arena
Outside the arena in Fukuoka.

I arrived there on a welcome cool day in comparison to the soft warmth of Okinawa. I actually had to wear a jacket. I got in there as soon as I could because this is the thrill of a lifetime.  I made a two year commitment, no you didn’t read that wrong, I made a commitment, to a cable company ….Okinawan Cable Network – OCN and have spent many Saturdays and early evenings watching the national sport of Japan – Sumo.

My seats were third row of the ringside seats. To say I was one happy Gaijin is an understatement. This was a big deal, not only because of my fabulous seats, but because it was also a Grand Tournament. What a thrill.

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A pdf of the tournament

I got my seat on a little cushion and settled in. Let me say there are a whole lot of things that you can’t experience from watching NHK (the national broadcasting company of Japan). Food and souvenir vendors line the interior of the building, selling everything from fans to sumo wigs.


Me with a life size cut out of  some rikishi (sumo wrestler) I should know the name of…after I took this picture, a real sumo wrestler walked by.

The sporting event excitement: fans shouting out names or encouragement, breaking the hush before match begins, excitement of us watching, quiet of  rikishi – sumo wrestlers – waiting for their moment in the ring. And me and my camera, always I lose myself, never more so than when shooting sports. It is a magical thing.

Facing off
That’s a whole lot of Bulgarian…Aoiyama Kosuke
maybe uchinanchu
Uchinanchu Rikishi
white wolf
The White Wolf – famous ringside judge – shinpan
Georgian Tochinoshin Tsuyoshi

This short video is of the wrestlers, showing their open hands to the judges, referee, each other and the audience, signifying they have no weapons.

I shot more than 2,000 photos that day. Here are a few more…

upper bodiesarms outpushing over

Below was the match of the day, the two were in the top spots with one day left to go in the tournament. I was there on the penultimate day of the tournament. Takakeisho in the purple mawashi (loin cloth) won the tournament the next day.

Komusubi Takakeisho at left against Takayasu Akira in the match of the day on November 24, 2018.
Komusubi Takakeisho , 22, was the winner of his fiirst championship in the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Nov. 25

The next morning I had another unique and equally wonderful experience, to go to the training stable close to the tournament. It was another cool and gorgeous morning in Fukuoka and people were lined up outside, peering in the windows. I had the opportunity to be inside. I was allowed to shoot stills, no movies and specifically no photos to be shared online. The young man told me this three times while making direct eye contact….that in Japan is serious business.  So, I took another 1,500 photos, but alas, nothing I can show here. If I see you and have them with me, I am more than happy to show you, but I made an agreement for the privilege of being in that room.

I watched their techniques, and took in the easy camaraderie of fellow athletes. I noticed they were relaxed and taking it easy until the stablemaster (boss, master) came in. All of a sudden, training intensified, became more serious.

sumo practice outside people
Outside the stable in Fukuoka.
shinto shrine with 1904 memorial
Hidden behind this little shrine, commemorating people who fought and died in the Russo-Japanese War, is the Fukuoka stable.
me outside sumo practice
Rikishi in training? Maybe…

It was an amazing experience, truly nothing like it in my life. Even if I go to another event, you never forget your first…

Take care everybody and have a happy and safe holiday, whether you celebrate or just have some time to yourself. I will see you all in the new year! 2018 was a great one!