So it’s Friday now. Sue me.
One of the really exciting things about watching last Friday’s sumo match was getting to see Yokozuna Asashoryu compete. Now, I must be honest. I still can barely tell one sumo wrestler from another, and that’s with pictures, name cards and a flow chart. The fact is, they still look like a bunch of really tough, really fat guys in uncomfortable underwear.
Better them than me, I guess.
But watching Asashoryu fight was amazing. He’s not so big for a sumo wrestler, only 137 kg – 100 kg less than the other current yokozuna. (I’ll get to how how know that wee bit o’ trivia in a second. Hold on to your obi’s, folks.)
Asashoryu was swift, and clearly knew where to hit his oppponent. At one point, the other wrestler unbalanced the yokozuna. I remembered seeing the same move in an earlier match. Asashoryu simply adjusted his weight and in moments had taken down the lesser fighter with a leg sweep.
A leg sweep, in sumo. Not a single other fighter that day bothered to even try it.
I got to see some culo moves, but it also occured to me that even though I am seven months into my stay in Japan, I’m still having moments where I realize my jaw is firmly planted on my chest. It’s embarassing, because then I have to pick the thing up and wipe off any drool.
The point being, when a friend of mine called me and asked where I was, I got say, “I’m watching sumo live.” That’s just so cool. How many times can you say that to somebody? I’m just hanging out, watching sumo and drinking a beer. It’s what makes living here indescribable at times.
Right after I got off the phone with my friend, an elderly Japanese woman came up to me and handed me a program. Gratis, just put the thing in front of me with a big smile on her face and used a unique combination of broken Engrish, gestures and her excited tone of voice to indicate who was whom in the ring, and so on.
I thanked her, and she went back to her friends. Amazing.
The program, of course, is where one can find the height, weight and probably blood type of all the wrestlers. Learning how relatively dimunitive Asashoryu is in comparison to other wrestlers underscored his ability, but I couldn’t help but wonder how accepted the Mongolian is by the Japanese.
I imagine he gets the same reception as a black baseball player might in the early ’60s, after the integration of the sport but before it had become widespread and accepted. He’s not the first foreigner to be a yokozuna, and we all know how this cliche ends.
At one point in one of the matches, one of the wrestlers slowly raised his fists off the ground. Apparently, this was a signal that he wasn’t ready to fight, but the other fighter didn’t see it and kept staring down his opponent until the crowd started tittering. This happened several times, with the crowd laughing louder and longer each time.
It made sense to me. If you’re going to be that big, and wear underwear in public that small, you might as well have fun doing it.