I have planned to watch a live sumo match for 2 years now (since I was in Koriyama). Nevertheless, the timing wasn't good back then, and thus I have to give that plan a skip. Coincidentally just a month ago, I found out that the Grand Sumo tournament is coming to Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium for 2 weeks in the month of July. And the decision was made to get a ticket in.
As Park-san is around during this period, I proposed to him the plan of watching the sumo tournament. Many of my Japanese colleagues have not watched a live sumo match before, the main reason being it is very expensive, the tickets cost 10,000Yen per person on average. The cheaper alternative in is to get a General Admission ticket on the day itself and it cost only 2,800Yen.
The only drawback is that the seats will be quite far back and we have to wake up fairly early for it. That's not a problem for us, so we decided to go for it on the 13th July, which is also the first day of the tournament.
We were initially planning to hop on the second earliest bus from Tokadai to Nagoya. But after I have read the 'horror' stories of people unable to get tickets in the morning, we changed our plan to the first bus. The stories I have read are all in Japanese and mostly relating to the last day of the tournament. I have not found any information in English on the general sold-out time of the General Admission tickets. My friend also told me the last day is very popular, but I'm not sure about the first day in general. I guess it is best not to gamble with the time and just wake up 50 minutes earlier.
We woke up at 5.55am in the morning and left at 6.25am. After buying breakfast, we are ready to board the 6.40am bus. Notice that the sun is already high up in the sky at this time. Here is my favorite bus coming my way. This bus leads me to Nagoya city.
We dropped off at Sakae and thereafter proceed on to the subway. I found out a single day subway pass cost 740Yen. So we agree to get it as we will be spending the morning in the sumo tournament, thereafter go on to Sakae for shopping and lunch. And finally come back to the tournament in the afternoon. The tickets can be purchased from the ticket machine found in any one of the subway station.
The City Hall station is 2 stops north of Sakae. A short 4 minutes walk bring us to the entrance of the park leading to the Gymnasium. A row of colourful flags greeted us when we arrived.
We got there at 7.50am, 30 minutes before the ticketing office is supposed to open. And to our surprise, there was quite a long queue. Here is the ticket office and the queue just leads up the stairs.
At around 8.10am, the drums started sounding. You will notice there are people sitting at the top of the tower. This mark the start of the tournament for the day.
At around the same time, the gymnasium staffs started coming around and distributing our queue number. He informed us that each person is only entitled to purchase one ticket.
Yea. Here is my queue number - Number 143. That means there are 142 people before me when I arrived.
We slowly make our way down to the ticket counter. We purchased our tickets at 8.50am. Here is how the ticket looks like.
We entered the stadium and it is an empty stadium. The morning matches are participated by the sumo trainees. The afternoon matches are the more exciting ones, thus the main crowd will come in afternoon. In the meanwhile, we can freely walk around the stadium and even sit right at the first row.
So we did just that and went all the way to the front. Even the referees and the people introducing the competitors are all trainees. They are very young. Each match begins with a shinto ritual. To find out more, you can read up about Sumo in Wikipedia. I also do not know much about Sumo until I read up about it. Actually this is the first time I watch a full length sumo, cos I also don't watch them on TV.
And everyone is getting ready. This young referee looks pretty cool.
And the match begins.
I have recorded a full length video of the match below. It starts off with the Yobidashi announcing the names of the competitors from a fan. It has a very enchanting tone. He will announce East - competitor name
We watched the morning match for an hour before leaving the gymnasium at 9.50am. Before we leave, we have to get a stamp on our ticket and were told that we can only leave once and enter once more. We walked to the ticket booth to check out the ticket status. All are sold out for the day. Basically all weekends and holiday matches are sold out. It is quite easy to get weekday matches ticket.
Shopping and Lunch in Nagoya
We took the subway down to Sakae and begin our shopping programme. Actually it is I who need to do the shopping. I have been requested by two friends to keep a look out for 2 stuffs: Tote bag from Burberry Blue Label and Archery Items. I went down to Mitsukoshi first to check out the Burberry stuff. The staffs are quite friendly and speak good english. I'm quite surprised that the bags are quite cheap too. It is also later that evening I found that Singaporeans really like Burberry Blue brands. A search in English will show mostly Singaporeans asking about them.
Thereafter we walked down and the shopping street and stumble upon an Apple store. We went in an play with the new Apple 3G phone. Only Softbank has the license to sell the phone, so we cannot buy the phone without any contract.
Next it is lunch time. We had an early lunch at Yabadon, the main store in Nagoya. Notice the long queue even at 11.30am.
We sat at the counter and could see the chefs busy preparing the dishes.
I ordered Ebi Fried, costing 1,800Yen.
Thereafter I went on down to Osu and check out the Archery stuffs. And we are back to the gymnasium for the afternoon session. I begin to see more competitors coming in, dressed in their traditional attire. It is compulsory for them to be dress in this manner in the public.
The next higher division, the Juryo is stated to start at 2.20pm. When there is ambiguity in the outcome of the competition, all the judges will gather and decide (see picture below).
And here is the Juryo Division Ring Entering Ceremony. All their names and where they are from are announced, they will turn to greet the crowd and each other.
At the end fo the Juryo Division, there will be a opening and closing address like the one below.
At around 4pm, we have the Makuuchi coming in, and also the Yokozuna (see the picture below).
The tournament trophy can be seen below.
In the Makuuchi Division matches, there are people walking around with boards before the start of the competition. They are the sponsors.
There is a score board at the stadium so we can track the scores. As we can see the Western division (bottom) has more points than the Eastern division (top).
Here is the second last competition between a Yokozuna and a lower rank member. The competition is between Kisenasato and Hakuho (Yokozuna). The Yokozuna won.
And the final match is between Asashoryu (Yokozuna) and Toyonoshima. Unfortunately, the Yokozuna lost and the people started throwing cushions into the ring. I heard about this phenonmenon from my colleague and was quite surprised to witness it.
Here is the video of what happen.
Finally, at 6pm, there is the Bow Ceremony. Everyone started leaving at this time.
End of the Day
The drums started sounding again, to round off the day's event.
Here is a sunset scene at Nagoya castle.