◆Writer: Ryota (DeepExperience Content Creator)
The strongest athletes, sumo wrestlers!
Is anyone curious about why sumo wrestlers are so big? I’m sure many people think, “it seems like the weight would make it more difficult to move,” but in actuality, for a sumo wrestler, that weight is their strongest weapon.
According to our instructor, sumo is a unique sport. While a wrestler is young, putting on weight is more important than anything else and as he grows, the focus gradually shifts to improving technique to effectively utilize that weight. Apparently, it’s normal to eat 5 bowls of rice with each meal.
Sumo wrestling is considered a unique sport in that there are elements of spiritualism in its practices such as throwing salt on the ring, the shiko (single leg raise and stomp), and the matawari (full side split).
From Osaka to Kyobashi to Nozaki, in 25 minutes.
The venue for Daito Club's sumo experience, which we’ll be talking about today, is a place called Active Square Daito. Active Square Daito is a facility that was repurposed from an abandoned elementary school to be used for accommodations and as a space for today’s experience, in the interest of revitalizing the region.
The nearest station is Nozaki Station on the JR Gakkentoshi Line. From Osaka Station, take the Loop Line to Kyobashi Station and then transfer to the Gakkentoshi Line.
Nozaki Station has 2 ticket gates, but the closest one was undergoing some construction and there was no fare adjustment machine, so we went out the opposite side.
▼When you come out of the gate, you should see a bridge with distinct red pillars. Without crossing, continue to the left.
▼You should see a FamilyMart on your left (left). Pass it, take the stairs, and cross over to the other side (right).
▼When you get to the other side, you should see this big sign. Take the next left and go down the small road.
▼You’ll come to an overpass, which you need to cross under (left), after which you want to keep right (middle). After a while, you should be able to see the campus grounds. Follow alongside it, and make a left at the next corner (right).
▼Continue walking and you’ll arrive shortly at Active Square Daito’s main gate. From here, you should be able to see a green canopy. Under it is the sumo ring!
Let’s go into a Japanese School!
For me, the sight of the school yard and buildings as I entered the gates of Active Square Daito was very nostalgic, and suddenly brought back memories of my own days in school. For foreign tourists, this may be the first time being on Japanese school grounds. Is it different from what you might have seen in movies or TV?
▼While we waited for the course to start, we went to take a look inside. There’s a small exhibition corner, where they had a picture of Takashi Ichinojo, a famous active sumo wrestler. We were told that he stayed here during the spring tournament.
The experience will take place on the ring just outside. It was made by a professional and uses from the same dirt as the one in Ryogoku Kokugikan. While traditionally, only men were allowed into the ring, this one has no such restriction. Women are welcome too.
▼The ring is built to regulation, and just seeing that makes me excited to get started.
Before stepping into the ring, there’s a purification ritual.
First the instructor will go over the history of sumo and the content of the course. Pay attention to avoid injury.
▼Explanation of the sumo experience.
Before we get started, we have to purify the ring. The first step is to throw salt on the ring. This is a very important step! It is said that the salt prevents evil spirits from entering. By warding these spirits, it is believed that the match will continue safely.
▼Purifying the ring with salt!
Upon entering the ring, there’s a traditional sumo ritual that has to be done. A technique known as shiko (single leg raise and stomp) is performed a few times to push out the evil already inside by using a wrestler's weight. Shiko is also done regularly as an essential part of training.
▼We all gave this a try as well, and it turned out to be much harder than it looks. Sumo wrestlers practice this about 100 times a day for their training. Wow!!
▼Our instructor then got into the ring, and showed us a bit of a sparring match! He was able to move his 100 kg plus opponent out of the ring in an instant. What power!
Get into a loincloth or bodysuit and become a sumo wrestler!
After the demonstration, you will be brought to the changing room where you can choose between a loincloth or bodysuit. I chose the loincloth and it was my first time wearing one. If I were to sum up my thoughts in a single word, it would be "Invigorating!" For most people, I think it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After you're changed, it's back to the ring. I felt like a true sumo wrestler, walking out for my first match, following the hallowed footsteps of those who came before me.
▼If you want be flexibile like a sumo wrestler, you’re going to have to stretch.
Warm up with some shiko reps. It looks much easier than it actually is. If you don't have good balance, or rarely use your legs, you're definitely going to feel it.
▼Once our muscles are loose, it’s onto practicing “suri ashi.” According to the instructor, this is said to be the strongest stance, which represents the body’s natural state.
Take on the instructor with everything you’ve got!
After warming up our bodies, it’s time to take on the instructor in a match. Muster all your strength and push him out of the ring! The rules of sumo are fairly simple. The first person to get pushed out of the ring or touch the ground with any part of the body besides the bottom of their feet is the loser.
▼Before taking on the opponent, we want to show that we have nothing concealed and that it'll be a fair fight.
▼Now, push with all your might!
▼Just a little more! Don’t give up!
▼After each match, don’t forget to bow to each other! It’s a show of appreciation to the opponent.
▼And of course, we can't end things without a group picture. Now those are the faces of seasoned sumo wrestlers.
After working up an appetite, it’s time for lunch!
Before we head to the dining room, we’re going to take a quick shower to wash off the sweat and dirt.
Towels are not included, so please bring your own. In case you forget, they do have small towels available for sale at a small fee.
▼They also have a large bathtub, but it’s not available for use during the experience.
▼Now it’s finally time for lunch, Chanko Nabe! It’s a kind of hot pot sumo wrestlers often eat, and it’s just the best after a shower.
▼The ingredients are flavored with just a chicken-based broth. Chickens only touch the ground with their two feet, so it's a match made in heaven for sumo wrestlers!
▼It’s very simple to make. First, put in the ingredients that take the longest to cook like tofu, chicken, green onions, etc. Then you can just dump the rest in all at once.
▼After all the ingredients are in, put the lid on and wait for about 3 minutes. Everyone here’s hungry and can’t wait to dig in.
▼Chanko Nabe, ready to eat! As soon as the lids were lifted, everyone’s eyes were glued to the pots!
▼It was so good no one had time for words. (lol)
Feel free to ask anything about sumo. The instructor will tell you all about the sport.
▼To finish things off, ramen! It may be a bit much for the average person, but after the sumo, you'll probably be hungry enough to eat it all.
▼After lunch, we were presented with souvenirs to remember the experience! This time they were folding fans with sumo related designs!
▼Lastly, we got a tour of the classrooms. Apparently, they're rented out for lectures and stuff. What a nostalgic sight! Seems great for seminars.
The sumo experience was in my opinion, a very content rich course. I think this is probably for many, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that can only be had in Japan. What I gained from this experience was an appreciation for the strength of a sumo wrestler’s spirit. While sumo became a sport back in the Edo period, there are descriptions that resemble it even in Japanese mythology. To be able to feel that Japanese spirit, this was a wonderful experience. I wholeheartedly recommend that you all give it a try too!