Do you remember those skits by Monty Python, “And Now for Something Completely Different?” You probably wanted something completely different on this blog today, so here’s a post about sumo wrestling!
Sumo. It’s gross, right? Flabby, mostly-naked guys slamming into each other at full speed?
Ah, but my friends, it is much, much more!
Sumo is the national sport of Japan. It’s of ancient origin. Only men are allowed to compete. Foreigners have been part of sumo for almost 100 years, and the current champion is foreign, as was his predecessor. There are about 1000 men who are in the pro ranks, and there are six levels that a competitor must climb through (or shove through, actually!) to get to the top tier. There are six tournaments a year, three in Tokyo, and three at other locations in Japan. The winner of a tournament receives The Emperor’s Cup, a huge silver trophy I couldn’t lift if my life depended on it.
There aren’t any weight classes, so the biggest, heaviest guys compete against everyone else in their level. It pays to put on weight! And having good balance can help a wrestler (rikishi) win, even if he’s lighter than his opponent.
The rules are simple. To win a match, a Rikishi must force his opponent out of the ring or make him touch the ground with any part of his body other than the bottom of his foot. Matches are super intense, but they only last a few seconds. The power of these giants is just incredible.
Lots of matches are available to watch online.
Some of us eat sushi at restaurants called “The Happy Sumo,” but there’s a darker side to the sport. In recent years some incidents of hazing and bout throwing have come to light, and there have been scandals that have rocked the sport and disillusioned some fans.
Now, I did live in Japan for a year and a half (LOVED it!), and I did see a sumo wrestler in a train station one time in Tokyo, but I didn’t know much about the sport until I started researching it for my newly released novel BIG IN JAPAN. It’s the story of an overweight Texan guy who’s a nobody, walked on and invisible in his job and in love, who goes to Japan and accidentally becomes the first blond sumo wrestler.
Anyhow, for this book, I didn’t follow the advice of “write what you know.” Heh heh. I’m a 5’1” girly girl mom of five who lives in the Arizona desert. (Although I do love Japan and wanted to take readers on a virtual tour of it.) Instead I followed the rule “write what you want to know.” I wanted to know more about sumo, thought it was so exotic and readers might want to know about it too.
Robert Frost said in his poem “Maple,” “Name some children some names and see what happens.” I echo that: “Pick an exotic subject for your novel, research it and see what happens.”
It could turn out to be BIG!
This is Donna to tell you that one lucky person will win an Advance Reader Copy of BIG IN JAPAN. Please leave a comment–including your email address–and one of you will win a copy of BIG IN JAPAN. Yes, this is a copy that I received and yes it’s been read, but it’s a great story that just has to be shared.
Jennifer Griffith is the author of four novels. BIG IN JAPAN is published by Jolly Fish Press and is available at bookstores nationwide and online. It is also available as an ebook. Find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJenniferGriffith and on Twitter, @GriffithJen.