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Sumo Wrestling: Japan's National Sport 
 
by Rob Goss October 04, 2005

Japan has many unique experiences. Sumo is one you must check out. Read how to get the most out of the experience.

A Travel Experience Not to Miss

If you ever take a trip to Japan, there is one quintessentially Japanese event you should try: don’t miss the sumo. Although we in the west tend to view sumo as some kind of comic charade in which large men in odd diaper-like pants push each other around, in Japan sumo is serious business that traces its roots back centuries. What you get at sumo is a glimpse into the past and at something that hasn’t changed in centuries and that has not been watered down or staged for tourists, as so many other cultural events worldwide have been. Sumo is the real deal.

What to Expect

Before most of the big bouts, contributors to the kitty that the winner of each bout collects parade around the edge of the ring holding advertising banners. It is a colorful display of traditional costume and brightly painted advertising that lasts but a minute or two. As the parade disperses, an umpire dressed like a high priest enters the ring and chants the name of the combatants in the upcoming fight. This long, wailing chant is met by cheers as it fades away and the fighters take to the ring.

Brains before Brawn

Before it culminates in a brief explosion of power, sumo is often won and lost in the preceding psychological battle. So you can expect to watch a lot of posturing, at least five minutes for each brief fight. Just after entering the ring, the giant fighters begin to strut, lifting their huge legs up to right angles and slamming them hard into the ground, each thud being met with sighs and roars of excitement from the crowd before the combatants retreat to their respective corners to collect handfuls of salt to toss across the ring to purify the ground. This is a pattern that is played out several times; posturing, salt, staring, leg slamming, chest thumping, more like a mating ritual from the animal kingdom than a warm-up to a sporting event

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