Watching sumo is on the must-do list of many visitors to Japan – there is something about watching two large, nearly-naked men poised in a delicate equilibrium in the centre of a sandy ring that seems to fascinate us all. However, even if you manage to catch a professional sumo bout in Tokyo or one of the other major cities, you will probably be relegated to a seat far from the action. When you visit us in Itoigawa, on the other hand, you’ll have the chance to watch the next generation of sumo wrestlers in training at the local high school’s sumo club. Even though the wrestlers are still teenagers, they are not to be taken lightly: several of them have gone on to win the national junior and senior high school sumo championships, and the school’s sumo club is so famous that more than half of its members come from other prefectures in order to join it. Recently, they have been covered by various TV stations, and some of the students have even travelled to Europe to introduce sumo there!
Such success is achieved as a result of an intensive training schedule, a couple of hours each day after school. This means that whenever you visit us, you will be able to attend a session. The sumo techniques are, of course, fascinating to observe, but so are the training methods. Like other traditional Japanese sports, sumo is very hierarchical, and you will often see the junior members sweeping the ring or bringing water for their seniors.
The energy and tension are palpable during the training session, but as soon as it ends, the students are all smiles. They always welcome overseas visitors, and are happy to pose for photographs. If you like, you can even try on the sumo wrestlers’ loincloth, but this is not obligatory!