When today started neither of us knew much about Sumo. After a few hours of watching it we’re not really any the wiser on most of the rule or rituals. I could try and explain some parts vaguely, but you’d be better off looking it up on Wikipedia instead.
What I can tell you is that it’s quite a spectacle to watch. We got to the stadium about 10:30am, and matches had been going since 8am. The morning rounds are only for the lower ranked (and far skinnier) competitors, so not many people bother coming in til later in the day. This is great if you want to get close to the action. The tickets we’d bought were for seats in the second last row on the second floor, but you can sit in any vacant seat until the rightful owner turns up. We started off in the A section (front row of the second floor), then realised we could even go down to the ringside seats. I didn’t want to get too close as I’d seen a few wrestlers get thrown out of the ring and fall into the first few rows, so we opted for a safer position a little further back.
We were settled in nicely, however it wasn’t long before we had to make a mad dash back across the city. The reason? Well I’d decided that while in Tokyo we should attempt to get a booking at one of the other Iron Chef restaurants, and had been able to get a late lunch sitting. A quick stop at the hotel for a change of clothes, then we were off to Ginza, home of Kaishoku Michiba, one of the restaurants owned by Iron Chef Japanese Michiba Rokusaburo.
It was quite a change of pace as we sat down to our Hors d’oeuvres – there was far less stomping and thigh slapping for one thing. Unlike our meal in Gion, or our Iron Chef French meal at La Rochelle, this time we had an English menu, so we knew exactly what we were getting. The challenge this time came in the correct way to eat each dish. A mushroom soup came out in something akin to a teapot, and we contemplated it for a bit before the waiter showed us that what we thought was just a lid was actually a small bowl to be used to drink out of. A tofu course arrived as a small bowl of broth and two large wooden implements sitting in ice. We’d seen this arrive at a few tables around us, and the wait staff had pressed the tofu out of the wooden blocks through a slicer at the end, so we were rather surprised when our waiter handed them to us to use (I think we did an ok job).
Just after our mains (beef steamed at our table on a hot stone) the waiter asked where we were from, and if we knew of Iron Chef. We explained that’s why we’d come to the restaurant, and shortly after he came back with a large card printed with some of Michiba’s calligraphy – it’ll be going straight to the pool room.
The last few courses consisted of a rather spicy Chinese style noodles, three year old aged mackerel and rice, a sweet potato and orange cake and a peach jelly with yoghurt. Amazingly after all this food we didn’t have the normal “never need to eat another thing in my life” feeling we’d expect. We were certainly full, just not stuffed – we put it down to the absence of bread (which we always eat too much of) and wine (sake being much lighter).
We’d planned to go back to the Sumo after lunch, but the large meal combined with a delay in our table being ready meant it was a lot later than we’d expected. Still, how often do you get to see Sumo? So it was back across the city in an attempt to catch the final few rounds of the day. We managed to see about an hour of the main competition, and by that stage the arena had filled up, and the wrestlers were a lot bigger. I’ve got no idea who won, or even who we saw (I did hear Mongolia mentioned at some point, and I know two of the top ranked wrestlers are from Mongolia, so I guess we saw at least one of them). Even in my ignorance it was still great to watch; it was a very happy coincidence that we happened to be in Tokyo at the right time to see it.