Traditional Sport




 Brief history:


Sumo 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 (?‘‹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.
Sumo's popularity:

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‘ã‚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 here.

This link will take you to theEnglish web pages.
The current Yokozuna (‰¡?j) are: Takanohana (‹M”T‰Ô), Wakanohana (Žá”T‰Ô?Gbrothers) and the Hawaiian born Akebono (?Œ).

The Game:


In Sumo, two wrestlers face each other in the middle of a Dohyo (“y •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 (‘åŠÖ), 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.

 Popular Sports





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 bounds.

Professional Baseball:

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 their
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 catch something.
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 crowded.




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