goes back in time to the earliest history of Japan. It was originally
connected with prayers for a good harvest and evolved into a spectator
sport. Professional Sumo began in the Edo period. The main arena for Sumo,
the Kokugikan (?$B!F(B‹ZŠÙ)was built in 1909 and is the home of the
Japan Sumo Association, formed in 1925. Sumo was a very popular sport
before the outbreak of the Second World War, the star at that time was
Futabayama Yokozuna (Grand Champion). After the end of the war, Sumo
regained its popularity and in 1958 the number of 15-day tournaments was
increased to six a year, held around the country. The Kokugikan was
rebuilt in 1985, and thus began a new era in this ancient sport. Sumo is
now widely practiced as an amateur sport, too.
Radio broadcasting of the tournaments began in 1928 and in 1953 saw the
first TV images of the sport. Audiences grew from these broadcasts and
revitalized the sport, this led to a large number of good wrestlers,
including Yokozuna Chiyonoyama, Kagamisato, Yoshibayama, Tochishiki,
Wakanohana, and later, Chiyonofuji (?ç$B!F(Bã‚Ì •xŽm).
The appearance of Hawaiian born Takamiyama in the 1960's, helped to give
Sumo an international appeal and later on Konishiki (?¬‹Ñ)
helped to spread Sumo's popularity in Japan and to other countries. Today
there is an English language Sumo magazine, and many books written by
foreign Sumo fanatics. NHK has an English language broadcast during Sumo
tournaments on BS11. The Japan Sumo Association also has a web page, which
I have linked from
link will take you to theEnglish web pages.
The current Yokozuna ($B"s(B¡?j) are: Takanohana (‹M$B!I(BT$B"s(BÔ),
Wakanohana (Žá$B!I(BT$B"s(BÔ?Gbrothers) and the Hawaiian born Akebono (?Œ).
Sumo, two wrestlers face each other in the middle of a Dohyo ($B!H(By
•U: ringed platform) measuring 4.55 meters in diameter. They are
clad only in Mawashi, the first go through a pre-fight ritual, such as
striking fierce poses and then throwing salt into the ring, for upper
division wrestlers. This can last for a maximum of four minutes, this is
all part of the ancient tradition of Sumo.
There are 70 different ways to win at Sumo the most common winning
techniques are; Yori-, Oshi-, and Tsuki-. After the end of each tournament
the wrestlers, except Yokozuna and usually Ozeki ($B!F(BåŠÖ), are reranked,
depending on their winning / losing record.
Usually, tickets for each day of the tournament are sold out, you should
line up, outside the Sumo arena early, to have a chance of getting a seat.
If you are able to watch it live, you must be impressed by the spectacle,
it is for more than two overweight guys wrestling (as someone once told
me), it does encompass a lot of
tradition and color, that you will not find in any other sport.
I would recommend taking a look at the Sumo Association's web site, and
reading one of the specialty books on the subject, to get more insight
into this sport.
Perhaps the most popular sport in Japan, like European
soccer, it is both a sport for spectators and participators. Many
companies have amateur teams and even some neighborhoods sport
their own team. There is also a little league, organized by
schools in Japan.
The first professional team was founded in 1934. After
the end of the last World War the sport grew by leaps and
One of the oldest teams is the Yomiuri Giants, and one
of the most popular. The team is based in Tokyo, but enjoys many
fans from across Japan. It is also one of the richest teams, able
to buy up the good players. They have not, however, been
especially successful in recent years, I am not a baseball fan,
but to my mind, they always seem over confident in their approach
to the game. I am always delighted when they lose, and the
under dog wins!
There are two leagues in Japan, the pacific and
central, each made up of six teams. At the end of each season there is a
playoff between the two league winners. This year, Yokohama
won, to the surprise and delight of its fans.
It is interesting to soak up the atmosphere of a
baseball game, even if you are not, like me and my wife, baseball
fans, we could still enjoy.
Unlike soccer in Europe and it seems, especially in my
country (England), there is no violence in the stands and only
the occasional brawl on the playing field.
I have been to Tokyo Dome a few times, to watch
baseball, you are able to drink alcohol, there are many beers dotted
around the arena and even, best of all, young pretty girls,
selling beer on tap, from small barrels strapped to their backs. A wonderful
experience, that I want to try again. The serious fans all
dress up in the teams colors and chant in unison, a Japanese trait (groupism),
it can become very noisy, as was witnessed in the last
World Cup (soccer), when the Japanese team was playing, the
Japanese fans may have been in the minority, but they made the most
noise, nothing mild mannered about the Japanese, especially when it is
national team playing!
High School Baseball:
The top amateur event in Japan is the All Japan High
school Baseball Championship, held each summer at Koshien
Stadium. The best from each prefecture (region) play at this very
popular event. It is covered in its entirety on NHK TV (Government TV station).
In the spring Koshien hosts the National Invitational
High School Baseball Championship. The best players from the
championships are usually taken immediately by the professional teams,
for large sums of money.
The negative aspect of this event, as with some other
things in Japan, is that the young players are sometimes pushed
too far to succeed, if their team loses, they often break down in
fits of tears and probably their coach will have many tough
words for them!
Before the Second World war golf was only for
the very rich but since the 1960's it has become a game for everyone. It
is much more expensive than in England or America, one round
of golf on average starts at 10.000 Yen per person, weekends and
holidays may be 50% or 100% more expensive.
The majority of golf players take the sport very
seriously, which is understandable when you consider the cost. There are
golf ranges everywhere in Japan, in the most unlikely
locations, sometimes. There are a few local government courses dotted around
Tokyo, but they are always completely booked months in advance,
the fees are much cheaper than the private ones.
Golf membership, is a status symbol, before the
"bursting of the bubble" in Japan membership, cost around 8
million Yen and upwards. After the economic decline in Japan, those golf
memberships here sharply lost value, oversubscribing was also another
problem, with unscrupulous golf course owners. The most telling
aspect about golf in Japan is the way the business man plays golf.
It is deriguer to play, if you want to "get on" in the
business world, starting to play golf soon after joining a company is not unheard
of. The young man and sometimes young woman, may not have any
interest in the game, but pressure from "above" pushes them
into it. Golf
insurance, for a hole-in one, is one of the more
amusing aspects of Japanese golf. The player who gets a hole-in-one,
must give gifts to the other golf club members, his friends and work
collages, amounting very often to over 1.000.000.Yen Insurance is
a must, if you want to play in Japan.
Another popular sport in Japan. There are many
tennis courts in towns and cities, even some farmers have made tennis
courts on their land, it is more profitable than growing a crop.
Playing tennis in a city in Japan can be expensive,
also the tennis courts are usually reserved for in advance. You
should make a reservation at least a month before.
Fishing rose in popularity about 30 years ago and
with over 15 million fishermen, it can become a quite congested
along the river banks and beaches. There are many fishing cruises to be
had from the Tokyo Bay area and along the coasts of Japan. The
fees are a little high, but usually the fishermen are able to
One of the more incongruous sights to be seen in Tokyo,
is the small artificial fishing ponds, filled usually with
carp. At the weekends you can see many people of all ages crowded
round there ponds, eagerly awaiting a "bite". The fish
don't stand a chance. If you are in Tokyo, take a trip on the JR Sobu
line, near Suidobashi station, you will be able to see a couple of
fishing ponds, on a sunny day at the weekend it gets quite