In Japan, the colossi of sumo take to the track in Tokyo

The atmosphere is electric. And suddenly, as one man, the crowd stood up, applauded and cheered the young Japanese sumo rider Hiradoumi who had just ejected his adversary, the Georgian Tochinoshin (1), from the “sacred ring”. In just twenty seconds. Against all evidence, the most “frail” fighter (1.78 m for 140 kg) knocked down a giant of almost 2 meters for 180 kg. In sumo, contrary to popular belief, weight is not everything.

On this late afternoon of January 8, 20,000 sumo fans, gathered at the Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium in Tokyo, are delighted to attend the tournament which opens the 2023 national championship (2). In the stands, with armchairs in the heights and small tatami mats at ring level, families with young children, retired couples, students, tourists returning to Japan since the opening of the borders last October enjoy themselves. and a good majority of… women. ” From my point of view, explains Kaori, 40, an office worker, Japanese women admire what is an impressive spectacle where fight, without bloodshed, wrestlers with imposing measurements that they respect. » And we can see these sumo buffs, alone or in small groups, scribbling the schedule of fights, circling the names of their idols and future champions.

A sport with religious origins

It is especially from 4 p.m. that this first of the six tournaments of the year, which lasts fifteen days, offers the most impressive fights. Since the morning, dozens of fights by wrestlers from the five lower divisions have already taken place. Faced with a sparse audience, these young sumo wrestlers are already impressing the beginners who discover this “temple of sumo”. The fights are brief, barely thirty seconds, but very intense and sometimes dangerous. One of the fighters also had a bad fall and had to be evacuated on a stretcher.

Back to normal after two years of Covid restrictions

But at the end of the day, when the presentation ceremony of the last 40 rikishi (lit. “strength” and “warrior”), the public goes almost into a trance to welcome these 21st century gladiators who embody this specifically Japanese sport dating back to the dawn of time. These 1st division sumo wrestlers (Makuuchi) surround the “sacred circle” 4.55 m in diameter and delimited by a belt of rice straw. Under the impressive roof of a Shinto temple, a religion that is also specifically Japanese.

Before each fight the ritual of rikishi is immutable; the clapping of hands to attract the attention of the gods, the open arms and hands raised to the sky to show them that they have no weapons and finally the raised legs which fall violently on the sand of the ring to crush possible evil spirits. Sumo is a sport with religious origins, dedicated to the gods and practiced by “demi-gods”.

The 2023 season is “very open”, without a champion who imposes

The excitement of the public, frustrated for two years not having been able to shout or encourage their stars because of the pandemic, is palpable. The fights follow one another, some lasting less than five seconds. The titans collide, spin, cling to the opponent’s belt, either to lift him up and push him out of the ring or to throw him off balance and throw him to the ground.

We feel the power of the colossuses who confront each other and the energy developed in a very short period of time. The euphoric room no longer holds back its cries as in the days of the Covid and explodes with joy at the end of epic fights. “The season has only just begun, explains everyday sumo expert John Gunning JapanTimes, this year the championship is very open and can hold many surprises for us. » Go to Fukuoka in November to witness the possible consecration of a yokozuna, the highest title among sumo wrestlers. To win this award, a wrestler must win two tournaments in a row. A real challenge because only 73 fighters have been able to conquer it since… 1789.

(1) Among the 700 sumo wrestlers in Japan, barely 5% are of foreign origin, especially from Mongolia, Turkey, Hawaii, Hungary, Ukraine and Russia.

(2) The six tournaments take place in odd-numbered months, three in Tokyo (January, May and September) and the other three in Osaka in March, Nagoya in July and Fukuoka in November. Each tournament lasts fifteen days. The champion is designated according to the number of fights won during the season.



2022 World Cup results: Japan and Spain qualify, Germany eliminated

► Spain trembles and loses against Japan (2-1), both qualified

Huge surprise Thursday evening December 1 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha where Japan beat Spain (2-1) and validated their ticket to the round of 16 of the World Cup with their opponent of the day.

Scared to death for Spain! At ease after Alvaro Morata’s quick header from Alvaro Morata in the 12th minute, La Roja were taken aback when they returned from the locker room by a transfigured Japan who scored two goals in three minutes to seal their qualification for the round of 16. where he will face the reigning vice-world champions Croatia on Monday.

Flamboyant against Costa Rica (7-0) at the start, then hung by Germany (1-1) on Sunday, Spain plunged as the games went on until they hit rock bottom in the second period on Sunday… but ended up saving his place in eighth in suffering. She will meet Morocco, Canada’s evening killer (2-1), on Tuesday.

► Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2, both countries eliminated

Germany, fallen giants of football, left the World Cup by the back door, despite a 4-2 victory against Costa Rica insufficient to open the way to the knockout stages.

The Germans would have been eliminated anyway by the victory of Japan against the Spaniards (2-1). They actually lost their World Cup in the first game, with their loss to the “Samurai Blue” (2-1).

This elimination is, for the quadruple world champions, an earthquake of gigantic magnitude. Since its return to the international scene in 1954, Germany had been the most regular nation in the World Cup, even more than Brazil: in sixteen tournaments until 2014, the Mannschaft collected four titles, as many lost finals , and four more semi-finals and four quarter-finals.