I grew up watching Akebono, Konishiki, Takanohana, Wakanohana, and Musashimaru so I knew we had to go see the Grand Sumo Tournament at the Okinawa Convention Center. I’m pretty sure everyone from Hawaii knows who Akebono, Konishiki, and Musashimaru are. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole even performed a song about them!
We got there soon after the doors opened. The wrestlers were on the floor stretching and doing some drills. At first, the guys stuck to the ring or the pathways leading up to it. But after they did some practice rounds, they started wandering around the venue. They took pictures and chatted with fans or just hung out and talked among themselves.
Because of Cass’s work schedule, we didn’t get much sleep and had to wake up early to get to the venue. We were getting sleepy so skipped some of the demonstrations and took a walk through Ginowan Seaside Park. We ended up at Tropical Beach with some gorgeous ocean views.
We came across wrestlers all over the park and at the beach relaxing or stretching their legs. A couple of them were singing and they sounded really good! We found out later that they were practicing for their performance before the tournament kicked off.
There was a mochi pounding so we got in line to get some for free. I don’t know how other people eat it, but my mom always ate it with shoyu and sugar. They had another topping we didn’t recognize, but we tried it anyway. It was like a slightly sweet powdered graham cracker. Confession: I never liked mochi. But the last time I had it was when I really young so I thought maybe I’d like it now. Not so much. It’s a texture thing.
I had so much fun watching the bouts. It was an informal event so the wrestlers were still out and about. Some of them went straight from the ring to stand behind the back seats on the floor to watch. Most of them happily took pictures and signed autographs. They were immediately mobbed though. People were flat out running up to them.
What was most interesting was the evolution of the sport from when I watched in the early 90s to now. My aunty and I had a conversation about how back then it was all about brute strength and size. The biggest guys still made it to the end, but it wasn’t a given that the big guy beat the little guy. During the preliminary rounds, everyone chuckled when a shorter, skinnier guy went up against a much larger opponent. There was a loud gasp when the smaller wrestler dodged around, strategically pushing his opponent off balance and out of the ring. We knew he had a chance, they all do, but the speed at which he won was shocking.
If you ever get a chance to see sumo in person, do it! We loved it!
Want more? Check out my vlog from the day!