In Australia, many boys and girls dream of making it big in sport: wearing the baggy green cap, playing football, breaking records in the pool. As Dermott Brereton discovered, when children in Japan dream of making it big, big is the operative word. They want to be sumo stars.
Dermott joined a HIS Experience Japan Day in the Life of a Sumo at a school in Tokyo. Students live and train on the premises and their average weight is 136kg. There are no weight restrictions and you're likely to see a wrestler against an opponent twice his weight.
They don't hold back, either there's much clashing of heads. While Dermott was extended the most unusual offer of stepping into the ring he suggests that sitting on the sidelines is the better option.
Lunch with the coach is part of the tour and you can sample the basic diet of the sumos-in-training. Chanko is chicken, vegetables and rice with various seasonings.
Sumos in Japan are admired like actors and rock stars. The wrestling tradition has been around for 2000 years and is the oldest of Japan's many martial arts. Based on an ancient combat form called sumai meaning to struggle, it was a form of ritual dedication to the gods for good harvests.
Fundamental movements include stamping, arm thrusting and shuffling. Those exercises build strength drawing the centre of gravity to the lower abdomen.
At the start of the match, giant, near-naked men in loincloths enter the ring when salt is tossed to purify it. They hunker down and psyche each other out with menacing stares. When ready, each rikishi (professional sumo wrestler) attempts to throw his opponent to the ground or even out of the ring. There are 82 techniques permitted to achieve this. The loser is the first one to touch the ground with any part of his body other than the feet.
Sumo school in Tokyo, Japan.
HIS Experience Japan Day in the Life of a Sumo tour is $207 for adults and $161 for children. They include viewing wrestlers' early morning practice and sharing a hot pot meal with the stable master. They run on Tuesdays, except during Grand Sumo Tournament time.
Singapore Airlines has flights to Tokyo from:
- Perth $1498
- Melbourne $1533
- Adelaide $1545
- Sydney $1552
- Brisbane $1556
Valid for travel between April 29 and June 26, 2010.
Prices correct at April 29, 2010.
For further information
HIS Experience Japan
SK Building 8F, 6-2-18
Japan National Tourism Organization
Suite 1, Level 4, 56 Clarence Street
Ph: (02) 9279 2177
Visas: Visitors from Australia are issued with a 90-day tourist visa on each entry to Japan. Foreign tourists are required by Japanese law to carry their passports with them at all times.
Electricity: 100V with two flat-pin plugs.
Time zone: GMT +9.
Currency: The yen.
International dialling code: +81.