Since classes have been over I’ve really piled on the adventures. I’m feeling my time here draw to a close and I’m realizing all the things I have yet to do. Once of those was to see a match of the legendary game of Sumo.
I remember on lazy Saturdays with my brother we’d watch whatever happened to come on TV at our grandparents house and consume unhealthy amounts of Sprite and Poptarts. Once we spent a whole Saturday watching sumo on some obscure sports channel, and we couldn’t get enough of it. We soon had favorites we cheered for and held our breaths as the two behemoths of fat and muscle stared each other down, ready to collide.
These memories came rushing back to me as we took our seats and watched face off after face off. We had come into Nagoya early that morning by bus and were ready for an all day sumo camp out. It was tournament style, starting off with minor leagues in the beginning of the day and ending with the big, famous contenders. Each match lasts anywhere from 3-10 minutes, and most of that will be tossing salt, crouching, leg lifting, and staring each other down as the drama mounts. The actual fighting is usually over very quickly, with a very simple goal of pushing the other guy out of the circle or knocking him over.
As with many things in Japan the beauty is in the simplicity. What makes it fun is the drama as fans cheer in earnest for their favorites. They stare each other down trying to intimidate, and rely on the techniques of either size or fancy maneuvers. The slightest hesitation or misstep can see the opponent on his back covered in dirt and salt, watching the victor crouch to receive his blessing.
We soon had our own favorites and had a lot of fun guessing who was going to win as each pair took the stage.
The intricacy of the ceremony was stunning, and there was so much color and activity I was fairly dazzled. This was a far cry from the football games back at good ol’ Bama.
Afterwards we saw some to them hanging around outside and we were dying for a picture, but true to their training they were rather intimidating, huge, stern looking fellas. One of them was surrounded by a group of sweet old ladies fangirling over him, so my friend Adrian shuffled over muttering the word for ‘picture’. The old ladies took command. Once of them tapped the giant on his back saying “Hey Oniisan would you take a picture with these Americans?” He turned around, nodded to the old lady that came up to his waist, gave us a once over, and grunted, “Ok, just one.”
A day later and another adventure was in the queue. Something I’d been wanting to do since getting here. A trip to Nara, a small city southeast of Osaka full of nature, temples, and deer.
As soon as we left the station we were greeted by the sweltering summer heat, the smell of deer poop, and well the culprits themselves, who were happy to receive the deer treats we bought for them at sidewalk stands.
Needless to say it was hot and we were ready to move on to some cool shady temples. The deer were all over the path and back in the fields and even stopping for shaved ice they made sure to show their interest in us.
The biggest temple, Todaiji, was beautiful though. It survived the bombings of WWII and numerous fires, and is now one of the oldest wooden structures on earth, and houses the largest iron Buddha statue, known as Daibutsu.
Oh you know just one of the worlds oldest wooden structures, lemme put my name on it.
After wandering through Todaiji we were looking at charms. Behind the counter one of the workers started saying lewd things about me in Japanese, in full assumption that I had no idea what he was saying, as he was talking pretty loud and was right in front of me. It wasn’t the first time people have talked about me without realizing I know Japanese, but it’s pretty rare from them to openly talk about by chest. I could have easily told him off in Japanese, or (what I kind of wish I had done) asked a simple question in Japanese to let him know I speak, but instead I stared him dead in the face with a look of disgust. He quieted down mid sentence. Gaijin 1, scummy dude 0.
This sort of thing is pretty common, what with Japanese being a really difficult language for Westerners to learn, oftentimes they make the correct assumption that you have no idea what they’re saying. No matter what country you’re in this is a good way to get cheated, etc, so I’m always an advocate of learning the basics of the language of your destination country, or in the very least being savvy of the common scams.
Despite the unfortunate encounter I didn’t let it get me down. We strolled along and admired many more temples and had an all round good time even though it was awful hot out.
We grabbed some cheap conbini food and caught the train home. I watched the rural landscape whizz by and felt the biting desire to go on an extensive hike. Something I shall be doing if I have the time. Japan’s rural areas are beautiful, clustered old houses between rice fields, watched over by towering green mountain ranges encircled by clouds. In the meantime I’m hopping on the night bus for a trip to Hiroshima tonight (another thing on the to do list). I wont forget those lovely deer though, or their insatiable desire for an ice cream cone.