Cool sculpture somewhere in Kagoshima, surrounded by fields of tea.
The aforementioned poster. The contestants are divided into West and East teams, though the only distinction of a team is that they’re the guys you’re competing against for the best win rate (the final is best rikishi in East versus best Rikishi in West), while the rikishi in the opposite team will be your opponents.
Trip report: Fukuoka
This weekend was Sumo weekend, vaguely synonymous with “getting a proper chance to shop around Fukuoka” weekend. MAJET organises a sumo trip each year, which gives them the chance to buy “box” tickets and make sure we get a pretty decent view of the proceedings.
Japan’s national sport is conducted six times a year, thrice in Tokyo and once down in Fukuoka. Sumo wrestlers, or rikishi, are grouped not by size/weight but by ability. Each tournament lasts fifteen days, and each rikishi faces one opponent from their rank in the ring each day. We had tickets for Sunday, last day of the tournament, at which point the two players in the top rank with the best win:lose ratio face off for the following:
- Prize money from sponsors. Before each match, attendants parade a cloth flag purchased by a sponsor around the ring. Each flag costs ~$600USD, and the winner of a match will take half of the money brought in through this channel. Some earlier matches had two or three flags. The final had 40.
- Large trophies and plaques and such from various embassies. This included countries like Mongolia and Brazil, as there were several Mongolian nationals and a Brazilian or two in the tournament, but also countries like France, Hungary, and Norway (I think, I didn’t quite catch the announcement).
- The prefectures of Kyushu awarded a year’s supply of their speciality edible export, which a teacher back at work told me is shared amongst the winner’s stable. Miyazaki prefecture offered either one ton or one cow’s worth of beef, and a year’s supply of vegetables. Another prefecture offered a year’s supply of alcohol; another, chestnuts.
- Of course, fame, fortune, and being the recipient of the elusive Japanese standing ovation. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a room of Japanese folks get as psyched as they did for the final half-dozen matches.
It’s all very glorious and prestigious and rather expensive. Most of the seats are sold as little booths, maybe two metres by two metres with four cushions and a little alcove under the walkway to store your shoes/bags. You’ve gotta time your bathroom trips and such carefully to avoid getting in the way of everyone’s line of sight.It’s rather cosy, especially if you’re sharing with three other oversized gaijin who brought their luggage to the tournament, but you’ll have an uninterrupted view provided people stay seated. The booths themselves are ~$400USD each ($100 per head), though that might have been because we were there for the last day.
Of course, they sold plenty of souvenirs - I picked up a poster for my wall (will post a photo within the next day or so) and two boxes of cookies to take back to work (omiyage are the done thing when you make a trip out of the prefecture, and the alternative was staying silent about my excursion. If there are any cookies left by tomorrow morning, I’ll make sure to photograph one of those too.)
Fukuoka in general is a lovely city and I’d totally live there if I wasn’t doing other things in the interim. I managed a really good op-shop crawl on Saturday afternoon, although second-hand ladies’ fashion doesn’t seem to be a popular thing over here. Most stores tended toward “vintage” rather than “op shop”, both the prices and nice things:dross ratio were higher than I’m used to.
Of course, I managed a visit or two to the Pokemon Centre above Hakata Station. A redonkulous number of children in a small space aside, that was worth the trip. Shopping in general around the station was pretty good - I got some cheap socks, more stickers (my students love stickers, and I needed a batch for my upcoming Christmas lessons), and played a bunch of rhythm games on Sunday night when I had an hour to kill before my bus.
There was also a buffet and karaoke with the other JETs, which went about as well as you’d expect. I was raking in the compliments until my voice finally gave out. I stayed at Khaosan hostel on the Saturday night; about 2500 yen for a six-bed ladies-only dorm with ensuite shower and a good duvet. Their downstairs bar had free breakfast toast and were generally helpful and convenient, so there’s my recommendation if you want to stay in Fukuoka and want to do it cheap and simple.
My school’s cultural festival was on last weekend. They let me have a go at flower arranging - not traditional ikebana, but still fun! I had no idea what I was doing with all those pink frilly things, the foliage and neat willow twigs were more my jam.
Rose gardens: an ideal date spot
In a rose garden up in some mountains. A conspicuous lack of pollinators for so many flowers.
Pointy bugger on the left is Jogasaki, the smudgy thing on the right horizon is Sakurajima coughing stuff up again.