Sumo, Mikan, Kotatsu, Ocha, and Senbei

Nov 3, 2019

Sumo, Mikan, Kotatsu, Ocha, and Senbei

A few short days after one’s arrival to Japan on January 11, 1987, one was invited to a lovely girls house and what surprises awaited.

This lovely lady, ushered me into her living room and sat me down in a “kotatsu (If you don’t know what a kotatsu is, you should, you won’t be disappointed, click here to find out; You’re welcome), with the New Years Grand Sumo Championship on TV, serving green tea, senbei (Delightful and crunchy, learn about all kinds of senbei here), and mikan (A citrus delight if there ever was one, squeeze out this juicy knowledge into your brain here).

Having not known what to expect and totally caught off guard, I settled into the “kotatsu”, with the wispy green tea aroma billowing from the cup, crunching on delightful senbei, and experiencing the most splendid mikan ever experienced up to that very day (They were called Japanese oranges when I was growing up in Canada and only available at Christmas). Needless to say, they didn’t export their best products out of Japan.

I thought surly I had landed in some kind of a parallel universe paradise!

Having never seen sumo before, this was one of the most intriguing experience I had ever had in my life.

I immediately became a sumo fan, and this was during the rare time there were 4 Yokozuna and 4 Ozeki, including the very awesome Hawaiian born and bred Konishiki, one of the very first foreign sumotori; incredible!

During this time, one of the most prolific sumotori of all time, Chiyonofuji was active, and I consider this to be the golden age of sumo in the modern age.

Chiyonofuji is considered to be one of the greatest yokozuna ever, winning 31 tournament championships, second at the time only to Taihō.

During his 21-year professional career Chiyonofuji set records for most career victories (1045) and most wins in the top makuuchi division (807), earning an entry in the Guinness World Records.

Unfortunately, this very great sumotori succumbed to cancer, and died in Tokyo on July 31, 2016 at the age of 61.

Later on, I learned sumo is an important part of the native Japanese Way known as Shinto.

The sport of sumo has a long history spanning many centuries, and many of the ancient Japanese traditions have been preserved in sumo, such as the use of salt purification, again part of Shinto ritual.

In fact, some shrines still carry out forms of a ritual dance where a human is said to wrestle with a kami, a Shinto divine spirit.

I hope you, dearest reader, have the opportunity to see sumo when you come and visit us in the Land Of The Rising Son.

If not, I encourage you to sit in your very own kotatsu, drink aromatic green tea, and eat senbei and mikan, all the while enjoying this incredible historic ritual known as sumo.

Read more about this incredible Shinto ritual at the Japanese history and culture blog here.