One of the things we have loved attending here in Japan is the twice yearly sumo tournaments. I'm afraid I know very little about the sport and even less about the individual players, but I love going to watch it and on sunday afternoon we trotted off to check it out.
The stadium is built especially for the sumo tournaments that are held twice a year. The audience at the front sit on cushions on the floor. It's a great view, but beware of flying sumo wrestlers!
Before each session, the ring is carefully manicured by a team of sweepers. One guy waters the sand with a watering can and then the sweepers come in and tidy it up.
The sumo wrestlers march single-file into the arena, wearing their special 'aprons'.
Each wrestler has his name called out as he steps up in the ring. It's an amazing sight to see them standing proudly. Once all of them are in the ring, they ceremonially lift their 'apron', clap and raise their hands in the air before filing off. Then the games begin.
There is a lot of drama before each match, with thigh slapping, leg lifting and salt throwing. Note the referee to the right. I love his decorative robes.
The salt is held in a basket in each corner, along with a bucket of water and towel. The wrestlers grab a handful of salt and throw it across the ring. Some of them make it into quite a dramatic gesture, which is a bit of a crowd-pleaser.
I love the leg-lifting and thigh-slapping. We have tried doing this action (in the privacy of our own home), and it's really hard to do!
Once the sumo has done his grand gestures and is ready to go, the fists are placed on the ground to show that they are ready and the match suddenly shoots into action.
The loser is the first one to step outside the ring, or to fall to the ground. Most matches are over with in the first few seconds, but some good ones go on for much longer, which is very exciting.