….and all that sort of thing.
I’ve never been big on “new year resolutions”, particularly ones centered around some fitness goal. Particularly in the season where one tends to indulge in the gooey, fat-laden goodness of so many social functions that happen around Christmas and the New Year.
Particularly also, when those conveniently targeted/placed fitness magazines - whose publishers keep several actors/fitness models - most of whom are college kids at the peak of their metabolism and sports performance envelopes - gainful employed for several hours per day in gyms to guilt us into (a) buying those mostly useless and repeated/regurgitated diet and exercise plans repeated each year by the publishers and (b) provoke a slight fit of envy or sober realization that the many of us who are sedentary office schlubs will probably never even come close to looking like these kids.
So it is with this partly in mind, considering the (primarily American) obsession with slim and trim good looks as the basis of their new year resolutions (which might be a bit ironic as most Americans are rather obese), that I look forward to upcoming tradition in Japan, the “Hatsu Basho” or New Year’s Grand Sumo Tournament!
Most Americans can hardly take a sport like this seriously, with most people I’ve ever talked to about Sumo referring to the sport as “a bunch of fat men in diapers stomping about and then slamming into each other”.
Hardly a fair assessment, though while some of these guys do tend to have quite a bit of fat, underlying it all is no lack of muscle and skill.
And they do not wear “diapers”, but a type of stylized loincloth called a “mawashi”, which can be quite expensive given that for the upper-ranked wrestlers (sekitori) they need about 9 meters (30 feet) of silk. They also have a much more luxurious version with an embroidered apron front called a “keshō-mawashi” which can cost upward of $10,000 USD and is used primarily for the massed ring-entry ceremony.
Much of the tournament’s time is consumed in very many ceremonies and rituals, all of which harken back to some rather ancient purifying elements in the native Japanese religion, Shintō; the actual combat portion of the bout typically lasts only a few seconds.
In particular, the two current reigning Yokozuna, Asashōryū and Hakuho are known for their lightning-fast force-outs, and long standing Ozeki (recently demoted to sekiwake) Chiyotaikai has proven to be a perennial favourite amongst Japanese viewers.
There are also recently a number of Eastern European sekitori as well, most notably Kotoōshū (born as Kaloyan Mahlyanov from Bulgaria) and Baruto, an Estonian. These two have a fairly good shot at making Yokozuna and Ozeki, respectively… in this coming year.