Archive for 31 March, 2012

Fushimi Inari

What a day it was. I had spent the afternoon before walking around town finishing the Jazz Improv collection, and then I spent the morning in Kyoto at Fushimi Inari walking up the mountain and down again. Oww, my calf muscles hurt. This image is available for purchase.

A close up of a lantern with the famous torii (gates) of Fushimi Inari Shrine.

A close up of a lantern with the famous torii (gates) of Fushimi Inari Shrine.

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Sumo today Day 15 (final day)

On the final day of the Osaka Spring Tournament we enter this day with these stunning facts:

  • Mongolian Sekiwake-ranked Kakuryu has 13wins-1loss
  • Fellow Mongolian Hakuho has 12wins-2losses
  • Kakuryu needs Hakuho to lose to avoid a play-off and to win by regulation.
  • If Kakuryu wins, he will be the first Sekiwake to win the tournament, and be promoted to the second highest rank Ozeki since 1999.

* Sekiwake is a low rank, Yokuzunas are the highest and most expert ranked wrestlers.

Today

  • Homasho charges against and defeats the thrusting Miyabiyama.
  • Toyonoshima defeats Kitataiki by going belly to belly, and wins a pile of cash and also wins his fourth technique prize, which also includes a pile of cash.
  • Tochinoshin defeats Fujiazuma the dirty way by jumping high and pushing his forearms down on Fujiazuma’s back forcing his to the floor.
  • Wakakoryu defeats Tochiozan by locking up his arms in a sumo cuddle and forces him out.
  • Gagamaru defeats Tokyotenho by big-dude barge out
  • Aminishiki narrowly defeats Aran, as both fall out of the ring. Video replay might have offered a different outcome.
  • Goeido defeats Kakuryu in a sharp and fast start, causing a huge upset. Kakuryu is now at two losses, matching Hakuho, causing a play-off. Goeido worked hard for his home crowd, and spoilt the tournament for Kakuryu fans. Everybody’s now on edge.
  • Kotoshogiku slides Kisenosato out of the ring for a cringe-making-fall of the side of the ring. Good sumo from Kotoshogiku.
  • Harumafuji swings / rolls Koto Ooshu out of the ring. Very spectacular. Everyone in Bulgaria must have cringed and closed their eyes.
  • Hakuho struggles against the Estonian Baruto and almost loses.

Play-off: Hakuho vs. Kakuryu

I had to turn Twitter off in the lead up as hash-tag #sumo was overwhelming my computer! Wow! Twitter was going wild!

Kakuryu wasn’t mentally prepared enough with his eyes, for the first time, too close on the prize. Exciting. Hakuho forced Kakuryu to the edge of the ring, kakuryu came so close with his feel on the hay bales, and heels so close to the dirt, Kakuryu was able to lever forward a little, rescued himself, just to be rolled over any way. He will be promoted to Ozeki any way. The whole situation reminds me of the wonderful potential of Harumafuji. Well done to Hakuho, and to Kakuryu for his first attempt at the Emperors Cup.

File image of Hakuho, Nagoya, July 2011

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Watching the sumo on the internet

Yes, it is possible to watch the sumo on the internet. Currently, I have a link for the Japanese-only in-stadium live footage. The national broadcaster do have English speaking commentators, but I don’t think that footage feed is available on the internet. If you do find it, I would really like to share it with other blog readers.

To watch online, click this link, and your video player should start the live streaming (usually Windows Media Player): http://sumo.goo.ne.jp/hon_basho/torikumi/eizo_haishin/asx/sumolive.asx

Tournaments are held in the middle 15 days of the month, starting on the second Sunday of the month. Tournaments are held in January, March, May, July, September, and November. Coverage starts at about 11am, but it’s only worth watching from about 4pm until 6pm Tokyo time (7-9am GMT).

Watching the sumo live on the internet.

Watching the sumo live on the internet.

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5 things you must see in Japan

There are soooo many things to see and do in Japan, and so this list cannot do this country justice. However, if you have just five things to aim for, put these in that list, and let everything else be added bonuses.

1. Kinkakuji Temple (aka ‘Golden Pavilion’)

Kinkakuji (and by extension, Kyoto) is the number one destination for Japanese tourists, school groups, traveling seniors, university clubs, and more. Many foreign tourists place Asakusa as #1 just because it’s in Tokyo and therefore closer to the airport than Kinkakuji, so Asakusa should be your bonus.

2. A temple & shrine

Any temple or shrine should do. The one pictured below is in some small neighbourhood in a no-where special part of Japan, and all that glitters is often old, and gold. The decorations, aesthetics, and mood, and feeling is quite different to a christian church. Christian churches are criticised for plundering the poor just to fill their own coffers, but reality is religious buildings in most countries are old, and through time gradually accumulate such pretty things. Admire the uniqueness of the Japanese temples and shrines.

The statue of Buddha in Jokoji Temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism.

A statue of Buddha leaning forward ready to help someone in need, inside the Jokoji Temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Japanese Buddhism.

3. A festival.

Any (traditional) Japanese festival. These are typically so different to what you are used to. The locals often dress up in true-Japanese dress, kimono in spring / autumn, yukata in summer, and happi (shirt / jackets) for most things else. As you would see in the Kuwana Ishidori these aren’t parades meant to be watched, but parades meant to be participated in. Also see the Tagata Fertility Festival, the Naked Man Festival, the Nagoya Dance Festival, and more.

4. Todai-ji (The Big Buddha temple, aka Daibutsu)

The Todai-ji is in Nara, the city regarded as the original and ancient capital of Japan. There are many things to see of historical Japan. To journey to Nara, is also to indulge in Japanese history… assuming you read the history section of your guide book on your way to experience Nara. Much of the foundation of Japanese history is acclaimed to begin here. However, you should also consider the Shinto religion’s equivalent to the Vatican: Ise Shrine.

5. Food

It is the signature of any country. The foods, restaurants, the servings, dishes, cutleries, garnishes, and condiments are mostly unique to each country. Mayonnaise and Thousand Islands dressings are internationally common, but the Japanese love to have mayonnaise with lots of things you haven’t dreamt of; similarly the Taiwanese love Thousand Islands dressing with lots of different foods. Have you ever tasted spicy spaghetti bolognese? Well, South Korea is the place for that. Don’t expect the ingredients to be the same as home. Also don’t expect the real Japanese foods to be like the “Japanese food” you apparently had served to you in ‘Japanese restaurants’ in your home country. And for that matter, don’t expect restaurants serving food from your country to really resemble your country’s food. That said, Japan is a very well-off country, and so there is a wide variety of restaurants for you to discover.

Below, a restaurant district in Kyoto, Japan

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Sumo Today Day 14

The second last day of the tournament.

So far:

  • Sekiwake (3rd highest rank-division) wrestler, Kakuryu leads with one loss, and could be the first Japanese Sekiwake-ranked wrestler to win a tournament, and the first Japanese person to win a tournament in at least four or more years.
  • Top-ranked favourite Hakuho is in trouble, with two losses.

Today:

  • Homasho defeats Georgian Gagamaru by head-butt, side-step, and pull down.
  • 37yo veteran Kyokutenho defeats Tochiozan by pull down
  • Aminishiki defeats Wakakoru by push out
  • In an exciting battle that looked like it could go either way, Kisenosato (aka Blinky) eventually defeats Estonian Baruto who was thrust into the crowd. Baruto now has to re-start his quest to become a top-ranked Yokuzuna.
  • Aran works hard to eventually defeats Kotoshogiku by belt-lift, belly-to-belly, and push out
  • Japanese Kakuryu struggles but eventually narrowly defeats the out-of-form Bulgarian Koto Ooshu, bringing Kakuryu one step closer to winning the tournament.
  • Hakuho defeats Harumafuji

The final day tomorrow:

  • Kakuryu has 13wins-1loss
  • Hakuho has 12wins-2losses
  • Kakuryu needs Hakuho to lose to avoid a play-off and to win by regulation.
  • It will be an exciting day tomorrow

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Going to a sumo tournament

Here is a list of things you need to know when going to see a sumo tournament

1. The lowest ranked wrestlers go first, early in the day. I’ve heard rumors that the first bouts start at about 8am (I don’t believe it), but certainly the lowest ranks are already duking it out at 11am. If you arrive early enough, you can move around and sit where you like until most of the people arrive, and then you’ll eventually have to retreat to your own seat.

2. Lunch is available there. There are announcements that say you should not bring in any food, and only purchase food there at the venue, for health reasons (I don’t believe it). The food available is perfect for traditional Japanese palates, and are expensive. Range of alcoholic beverages is also limited. I hope you love Asahi Super Dry.

3. Even though tickets are for all day, most people arrive start to after 2pm, and often the whole crowd is there by 5.30pm. The final bout is at about 5.50pm.

4. Between each division of wrestlers, there is a brief pause, where the ring is cleaned, and umpires take a break. The upper ranks are introduced by some sort of ceremony that announces their turn. See the upper ranked ceremony photo here: http://www.westheimphoto.com/lightbox/index/detail/45094 the upper division is also marked by the ‘dance of the Yokuzuna’, performed by a Yokuzuna-ranked wrestler (the highest rank). The final ceremony is after 6pm, and it’s the bow (as in ‘bow & arrow’) twirling ceremony, see photo: http://www.westheimphoto.com/lightbox/index/detail/45099

5. The lower ranked division bouts are marked by unfancy mawashi’s (underwear / belts) and the referee is barefoot.

6. Throwing salt into the ring is done only by the upper category wrestlers. It is used to purify the ring ahead of each bout. Wrestlers may do this once, twice, or thrice ahead of a bout. Photo: http://www.westheimphoto.com/lightbox/index/detail/45101 Women are not allowed to set foot in the ring under any circumstances either before or during any point of a tournament.

Sumo wrestlers of the Minezaki Stable practicing ahead of the summer Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament

Early morning practice session

7. I’m not entirely sure if they are successful in psyching each other out, but they do attempt to intimidate, delay, call the shots on each other ahead of each bout, even the lowest ranked dudes. Menacing photo: http://www.westheimphoto.com/lightbox/index/detail/45097

8. Key vocabulary: “dohyo” is the ring and mound; “oshi-dashi” is push-out; “makuuchi” is the highest division; “juryo” is the second highest division (see Wikipedia for more info); “basho” is tournament.

9. Ranks of the upper division (the “makuuchi” division):

  • Yokuzuna (highest)
  • Ozeki (2nd highest)
  • Sekiwaki (3rd highest)

10. Wrestlers get quite low salaries, but the upper division wrestlers can  occasionally win a bit extra. Each time banners are paraded around the ring ahead of a bout, these show the sponsors of that particular bout. It is advertising. To sponsor or show an advertisement banner, sponsors need to pay about ¥60,000 (USD$700, GBP£450) per banner. The final bout can have upto or over 20 banners. Wrestlers can also supplement their incomes with advertising contracts. The Bulgarian wrestler Koto Ooshu has been sponsored by the Japanese company that produce the “Bulgarian Yoghurt” line of products. I have no idea why they have a Bulgarian yoghurt, but the product line precedes Koto Ooshu’s involvement in Sumo.

11. Sumo tournaments are fifteen days long, usually beginning on the second Sunday of the month. Tickets go on sale about a month before the tournament begins. There are three main types of tickets: Box (expensive, and good for small parties with your buddies, but very cramped); Seats (good for those with long legs, but uncomfortable on an unpadded tush); ultra cheap seats (byo telescope). See the official Sumo website for prices and availabilities, but purchase the tickets online and pick them up at a convenience store. The annual tournament schedule is:

  • January – Tokyo
  • March – Osaka
  • May – Tokyo
  • July – Nagoya
  • September – Tokyo
  • November – Fukuoka

12. You can tell if it’s a full house and they sold all the tickets if a small white banner is lowered above the roof of the ring. It basically says thanks for the sell-out day.

13. The sumo will be on TV from 4pm to 6pm (Tokyo time), and you can push the ‘language button’ to hear the English commentators say their bit. The sumo is also currently available (in only Japanese) on the web at: http://sumo.goo.ne.jp/hon_basho/torikumi/eizo_haishin/asx/sumolive.asx (opens your media player for live streaming)

14. You can see the sumo for free… well sort of. At various places around Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka cities in the early mornings from about 7-9am they train from about two weeks before the tournament begins (see pic above). They often do little to no training on the first day of the tournament, and less toward the end. You can find the various stables at local temples, schools, at the grounds of a restaurant, or any place that fanatically supports the sumo more than I. If you ever see an unusual very tall, vertical banner, usually on bamboo poles, then that’s probably the name of the stable training there, and you should get yourself out of bed early to see if it is indeed a stable training there.

15. Useful links:

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Site Maintenance

Update:

(25th March) Following the updates (see below), there are some inevitable bugs that need some sorting out. Most of these should be sorted in the next week or so.

Original notice:

I received this e-mail from the host of my PhotoShelter portfolio:

Dear PhotoShelter Member,

This is a final reminder to help you prepare for the full system downtime and major feature upgrades coming on March 24. We’re all really excited to bring you the first phase of a brand new PhotoShelter, and it kicks off this weekend. …

Planned Downtime:
The following is the official time window for the planned system downtime:

        Date: Saturday, 24 March 2012
        Summary: PhotoShelter System Upgrade – Full Site Downtime

        Duration: 8 hours

        START: 12:01 AM EDT 24-MAR-2012
        END: 08:00 AM EDT 24-MAR-2012
        (US Eastern Daylight Time; UTC-04:00)

 

Announcement of website maintenance

Announcement of website maintenance

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Sumo Today Day 13

The crowd got a lot of sweaty sumo action today, and a day of upsets.

  • Aminishiki wipes the ring with his opponent, and uses his opponent to wipe out an umpire sitting on the side, and a member of the crowd.
  • The bruised-pride of Baruto easily overcomes Harumafuji with thrusting-at-neck attack. Harumafuji falls onto the same umpire who was squashed and bruised in the previous bout.
  • Kakuryu (I still don’t know how to spell his name) struggles in a belly-to-belly battle, but overcomes Kotoshogiku.
  • Bulgarian Koto Ooshu easily pushes out Russian Aran, they both hold onto each other, and fall out together and into the crowd.
  • SURPRISE!!!!!!! Kisenosato (aka Blinky) pushes out top-ranked Mr Undefeatable Hakuho!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  CONGRATULATIONS Kisenosato

Summary

  • Low-ranked Kakuryu, with one loss, is now the sole leader of the tournament.
  • Top-ranked Yokuzuna Hakuho now has two losses.
  • If Kakuryu loses one bout, he would need to face Hakuho on the final day. Often the higher ranked wrestler wins and takes home the Emperor’s Cup.

File image, Kisenosato is the wrestler with the bull and frog apron.

 

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Sumo Today: Day 12

  • Kotoshogiku defeats Estonian Baruto by push out onto a spectator
  • Kisenosata pushes out Toyonoshima
  • Harumafuji quickly defeats Tochiozan by surprise cuddle and scoot out.
  • Hakuho struggles but eventually throws Koto Ooshu out into the crowd, and wins a huge pile of cash.

 

Special spring offer! Use this coupon code: SAKURA2012 for a 10% discount on any photo purchase (including the one below). USD$20 minimum purchase, good until the 10th April 2012 (hurry, while you remember!), and only at my PhotoShelter portfolio.Get this or any other image as prints, mouse pads, mugs, downloads for your project or blog, and more. See the blog for details: http://japanesephotos.asia/blog/2012/03/sakura-coupon/

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