Japan the Nation of Sumo Wrestling
Sumo wrestling is a history and tradition rich martial art spanning across many generations with many of the ancient practices still seen today.
The wrestlers are required to live in communal sumo training stables, known as heya, where their daily lives are regulated by the strict Japanese traditions. In these stables the wrestlers are working towards achieving the white belt, which is only achieved by the top professionals, this requires years of dedication and persistence.
In Japan, the only country where sumo wrestling is practiced professionally, six tournaments a year are held to showcase each wrestler’s progression and skills. This limited opportunity to watch the sumo wrestlers in action has created an environment in which it is common for tourists and interested locals to watch in on the training sessions held at the sumo stables.
While there are many potential scams, where “the stables will have morning practice, finish, then put on a fake practice for tourists” there is also many great opportunities to see the wrestlers up close and personal.
If you are interested, ensure you contact the stable first, arrive before training starts, move as little as possible and strangely, never point the soles of your feet towards the ring.
Mathew Bremner, BBC reporter, spent one week living inside a sumo stable and shared his experiences and the daily life of a training sumo wrestler. He said that the wrestlers would rise at 5:30 and perform their pre-training routine, which involved tying their hair in a chonmage (topknot) and wrapping the 3m-long mawashi (loincloth) around their ever expanding waist.
Their days began on an empty stomach in order to slow their metabolisms down and increase appetites. Unlike modern martial arts, Sumo wrestling has no weight limit and the competitors work to gain advantage through sheer size.
In one sitting, the average wrestler will make his way through ten bowls of chankonabe, the sumo staple diet and one now retired wrestler set a record when he ate 65 bowls, in one sitting.