The wrestlers parade in from the East and West and form a ring in the center.
The sand of the outer rim is swept during the elaborate bowing, warming up, and squatting rituals that happen before each match. If one player has any part of his body outside the rim, he loses. The smooth sand shows all record of any breach of the circle.
The matches are quick. The earlier several lasted a few seconds each. As we got into the highest ranks, there were a few that lasted close to a minute, to the delight of the crowd. Some are a stable arm-locked shove, some are quick shoulder jabs, and a few were slapping matches that reminded me of MMA.
A lot of salt-throwing for purification goes on.
Following are a few shots from the highest ranked match. As far as I understand, the grand champion was unseated by the underdog. The specators were completely into it and there was a shower of seat cushions at the end of the match.
We were fortunate to go to sumo on a tour organized through the YIS PTSA. It was an easy way to start, but if you missed it, don't hesitate to go. There are guides and even radio commentary in English, all simple to navigate.
Our guide, Ms. Doreen Simmons, is an 80-year old, 5-foot-tall, sumo aficianodo who moved to Japan 35 years ago for her passion for sumo. She was memorable, informative, funny, engaging...everything you would ever want in a guide. Especially when you imagine her hanging out with her wrestler pals! (If you happened to know my old SF housemate Maria Marta back in the day, just imagine her with a passion for sumo instead of Mayan rights, and you've got a pretty clear picture.)
**And thanks to my friends Deb and Arun for the loan of the zoom lens. Now I know. You can be in the cheap seats and still get some good photos. Hey, buying one would be like saving money, wouldn't it? I can sit wherever I want.