Monday, August 28, 2006

Sumo Cups

About a decade or so ago, my husband and I were rabid sumo fans. Our interest started near the end of the career of the incredible grand champion Chiyonofuji and continued up until around the point in time when the first American grand champion, Akebono, retired. Most foreign residents of Japan have limited interest in sumo and it's somewhat easy to understand why. The "sport" or "skill" as it's probably more aptly translated to, is very complicated under the surface but appears to be two fat guys shoving each other for a few seconds at first glance.

The way sumo wrestlers train is by living at and training in a "stable" (or "heya" in Japanese). Each stable has a different name and is ran by a master, usually a retired high level wrestler, along with several other managers who are also retired wrestlers though likely those who never reached the upper ranks. The rule is that no wrestler has to wrestle someone in his own stable. This makes sense in that it reduces the chance of a wrestler taking a dive to a stable-mate. Unfortunately, at one point one stable, Futagoyama, had about 8 wrestlers in the upper ranks. This meant that their wrestlers were exempt from fighting some of the toughest people because they happened to belong to the same stable. The problem with this is that the competition was so poorly balanced that this group of wrestlers were staying at the top in part because they had all made it to the top. This made sumo far less interesting to watch and was the point at which my husband and I lost interest.

The cups pictured above were used to serve beer at the Kokugikan in Tokyo. The Kokugikan is the main stadium for tournaments and all official Tokyo championships are held there. The Kokugikan is situated in Ryogoku which also happens to host a lot of sumo stables. However, there are stables in other areas including where my husband and I live. We occasionally see a wrestler walking around or at the train station. While seeing a wrestler is interesting, the thing most people notice is that you smell them. Their topknots are created using chammomile oil and they have a pleasant semi-floral, semi-talcum powder smell about them.

Anyway, my husband and I collected those cups during the height of our interest in sumo and the wrestlers shown on them are some of the ones we enjoyed watching the most. On the bottom row, the second, third and fourth from the left are all Americans - Musashimaru, Akebono, and Konishiki.

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