Thousands of Miles from Home


Sumo and Staying Up Late

On Friday night I got back to my house around 1 in the morning from the beach (which was a totally aweome experience; the sky was pitch black but you could see the Seto-Ohashi bridge and Kurashiki lit up in the distance). I practically crawled into my futon and feel alseep in a weird position which should have left my neck hurting the next morning (but thankfully did not). On Saturday morning I chatted with Shoko before she left for her Chinese lesson, then caught the 10:39 bus to Okayama to meet Katrin and Cori at noon. When I arrived in Okayama Cori was there but said Katrin would be a little late because of her orchestra practice. The sky was cloudy but it was warm so we walked down Momotaro (peachboy) Boulevard for some window shopping. Katrin met us a little later and we went to the Okayama Kokusai (International) Center because we heard that there was some sort of international festival taking place.

I had been to the center last month when the school took a field trip. The International Festival featured 6 levels of food, displays, and sundry items from around the world. I ate some Korean noodles for lunch which were very spicy but delicious. Most of the displays were in japanese but I did my best to read about different parts of the world. On one level a bunch of japanese teens dressed in brightly colored clothing were giving a talk about their trip to Cambodia. Cori bought a panflute which I find annoying unless also accompanied with goat pants and wine (sic. Fantasia) On another level one room was devoted to oragami so I made some so-so looking boats (when Jittan stayed with us I made a sweet-looking basket that I promptly forgot how to make) On the second floor was a large conference room showing a powerpoint on "Islam: The World's Most Misunderstood Religion." For me it was the world's most misunderstood powerpoint complete with not only gratuitous Kanji but arabic as well. I did appreciate the exhibit, however and was happy the see a large turnout festival as a whole. After spending the day at the International Center Katrin, Cori, and I walked to a nearby open air mall. For some reason there were a ton of high school kids dressed in Halloween costumes (a holiday that is not generally celebrated in Japan) selling food. We stopped in a small cafe for some refreshments, then I bid farewell to Cori and Katrin for the bus ride back home.

I arrived home around 6:00, and Shoko and I left for Kyudo at 6:40. We picked up Yamashita-san but Andee was eating dinner out so we went to Kyudo without him. We soon discovered that Andee was the smart one because Kyudo practice is postponed till next week. Not wanting to waste a good evening we all went back to Yamashita-san's house for tea and cake. Yamashita-san's son and daughter-in-law were also there so while they asked me about Japan Mi-chan read me some of her japanese books (my reading skills were ablout on par with hers). She also showed me her collection of ウオーリ (Wo-ri, Where's Waldo)

After tea and a whole bunch of laughter Shoko and I went home. About 10 PM Sam, the english teacher from Canada, came over and we watched "The Long Kiss Goodnight," with Samuel L. Jackson and plenty of guns. Sam likes to teach Shoko slang, such as "peeps," and "chill out." He had gone to Hiroshima to look for a car earlier in the day but came back unsuccessful. After the movie the three of us watched Figure Skating and American Football talking about nothing in particular. I have decided that Shoko is much more a host sister than host mom. Around 1:30 AM I was spent and retired to my futon.

Yesterday, Sunday (Halloween no less), was the day to top off the weekend. I took the 10:39 bus to Okayama, this time to meet Cori and Janna for sumo. Some of the rotary members heard that we wanted to see a sumo tournament and bought us tickets for the match at the Okayama Dome (let me take this time again to say that Rotary members do everything they can to show us a good time and I greatly appreciate it). The Okayama Dome was about 10 minutes by bus from Okayama Station so we arrived at the match around 12:30. The sumo had started at 8 in the morning but the main matches were scheduled around 1:30. I was shocked by the number of people in the arena. Out seats were in the back on bleachers but I was relieved because in closer sections people had to sit on the floor japanese style (this becomes very painful after more than 10 minutes). Our section probably had the best view of the arena as well because of it's elevated position.

The sumo wrestlers were massive. I had watched them on TV but it was nothing compared to real life. I walked over to their changing area where huge men with very little clothing were waiting, signing autographs, and posing for pictures. Everyone was crowded around a massive wrestler from Mongolia who seemed to be the audience's favorite (later he was led to the arena where someone ceremoniously shaped his hair in the traditional sumo wrestler style). Before the sumo matches began all of the wrestlers were led to the Dohyo (main ring) where they did a sort of dance (one clap, arms up, another clap, then pulling up their mawashi in unison).

The Dohyo was much smaller than I had thought it would be. When the two wrestlers take their places inside of it there isn't much room left for running around. Before the match starts a judge in a fancy outfit announces each of the wrestlers, then they each throw fistfuls of rice into the arena. The sumo wrestlers then raise their legs high into the air, and smash them back to the ground (the higher the leg raise the better. on one particular occasion a wrestler started pounding his chest which really excited the crowd). The wrestlers each take their places, then retreat out of the ring to throw another fistful of rice. They then take their pisitions again and commence trying and fling the other out of the ring (or throw them to the ground). This was done in many different ways including brute force pushing, rapid fire punching, grappling, and physically picking the opponent up by the Mawashi (the piece of cloth worn around the waist) and carrying them out of the ring (the crowd really goes wild over this one).

So we watched about 30 matches until the final championship bouts. The contestants were led into the arena with what I will call their posse. The crowd (while sitting on their knees) is visibly eager to see the winner of the matches. The 1st and 2nd runner-up battles were fierce, and the winners were presented with arrows and what looked like a rock (but probably wasn't). The chaptionship match was also vicious. After the referee gave the signal they were at each other. The match lasted longer than usual, with each wrester in a position of posible victory at times. The ring of the Dohyo is slightly raised so often one wrestler will push the other to the egde only to lose momemtum and be driven back to the middle. In an impressive pushing maneuver, one wrestler threw the other off balance and pushed him out of the ring. He was presented with a bow which he twirled around his head with striking agility for such a large man. There was then a huge rush to the door as everyone tried to get back to their cars and the bus station.

We took our time, however, because later that evening was a rock show at a club called Desperado. Wataru and Kiyoto (my friends from school) asked me to come and besides Cori and Katrin we were the only foreigners there. But I certainly didn't feel out of place. I talked with a bunch of people about my favorite bands and they told me about theirs (I have heard from many people that Asian Kung-Fu Generation is really good). Desperado looked quite a bit like 123, but with more mirrors. The sound system was also LOUD (my right ear still doesn't work). I noticed that before each band played they would come and tune their instruments, then walk offstage. Some song would then start to play and they would re-enter the stage while everyone clapped. Most of the bands sang in english, but I couldn't understand most of the lyrics (except HOOP because I already had their cd). I think when Wataru played was my favorite because he is a really good guitarist and I knew the lyrics. Another band named Blackout was from Osaka and played some pretty awesome music. The last band to play had a lead singer who went to my high school a few years ago. I suppose the best description of his singing was "emotional," but I was into it and everyone in the club jumped around (no moshing however which was great, just some dancing and a lot of fist-in-the-air movements).

After the show I bought a bunch of cds and got some free stuff too. There is going to be a SKA show sometime in the future so I definately want to catch that. I stumbled back to the bus station with Katrin (Cori had to go home early) and took the 10:00 bus home.



  • Still burning the candle at both ends I see. I still don't understand how a Type Z could produce a Type A.

    By mom, at 11:40 AM  

  • Hi Ben,
    That was a very interesting story, thanks for taking the time to write it.
    If you have a moment, can you please tell me a little more about the Sumo display.
    Am I correct in thinking that that is the Okayama Dome in your photos? Is it a frequent event?
    My friends and I are visiting Okayama in April.
    Thanks again.

    By Blubo, at 7:28 AM  

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