The sumo world is a vast landscape with nebulous practices based on ancient shinto ritual and the samurai warrior code of bushido. In its most basic form it is a celebration of purity and strength, but like our physical world it too produces mirages of mountains. What is seen on television and experienced by attending a live tournament is the facade which obscures what goes on behind the scenes. Fiercely protected by the fans, police, politicians as an unbreakable institution symbolizing more than the country of Japan itself, but the austere ethos of a frugal and productive people. People who believe in honor, who do not take shortcuts, who do not cheat.
Better than merely attending a tournament, going to the sumo “stable” is a great window into seeing how difficult a day in the life is for the vast majority of the wrestlers, most of whom will never get anywhere near the coveted grand champion or yokozuna position. Worse, they could end up like Takasha Saito, the 17-year-old sumo hopeful who died in 2009 at the hands of fellow wrestlers instructed to haze him by stablemaster Junichi Yamamoto. Failure is unacceptable. There is a kind of nobility inherent in any grunt work and despite, or perhaps because of, all this rigid rule-mongering the adherents of sumo have managed to convey this beautifully throughout the centuries old history of the sport.
1620 København V
June 9 – 16, 2011