Sunday, March 23, 2008
As a five-foot-six gaijin woman, it's sometimes hard not to feel like a blonde giant in a sea of five-foot-two, 85-pound Japanese women. Take, for example, the time I went swimsuit shopping and had to buy the only gaijin-compliant XL-sized suit in the store (I'm a medium back in good ol' fatty USA). Or the time when I unsuccessfully attempted to buy new running shoes and found that even men's sizes were too small for my massive feet. Embarrassing.
But I've found a way to feel normal-sized again: It's called sumo.
Those sumo dudes are HUGE. I can attest to this fact because I attended my first sumo tournament in Osaka this weekend. A group of us JETs set up camp in the "cheap" (read: 5400 yen) seats behind the ring and soaked up sumo in all of its fat-rolled glory. There was a lot to take in: the thousands of fans in the stadium, the intricate pre-fight ceremonies, the colorful robes that the referees wore, the practice of throwing salt in the ring before each match to purify it, and, of course, the massive size of the wrestlers themselves.
But perhaps what struck me most was the fact that these sumo wrestlers -- despite the fact that, you know, they weigh an average of 325 pounds -- are really just regular dudes. On our way to the tournament, we saw a robe-clad sumo guy (he must've left his glorified diaper -- or mawashi -- in the locker room) getting off the subway just before us. We ran into another one in the conbini when we were buying drinks and snacks (he was, too). And one of my friends said he saw a couple of wrestlers getting out of a cab in front of the gymnasium just before the matches.
See, they're just like you and me -- 325-pound versions of you and me.
I wonder if they have trouble finding a swimsuit that fits, too?