Thursday, October 18, 2007
Fortunately our time in Tokyo coincided with the Grand Sumo Tournament that only takes place six times a year.
We were a little late arriving to the stadium so we missed the traditional sumo lunch called, chankonabe. It is a stew made with fish, pork, vegetables, and
rice. The wrestlers don't eat breakfast because they train on an empty stomach. This makes them hungrier too.
Although the stew is very high in protein, their weight gain is a result of the huge quantities that they consume. They eat up to 10 times more than the average person. They even get special massages to move their intestines allowing them to consume even more.
The meal is washed down with large amounts of beer because a big beer belly is desirable for more stability in the ring.
A three hour nap helps the process by storing the fat.
Sumo are recruited as teenagers. It may take up to ten years for them to reach the respectable fighting weight of 400 pounds.
Although they are quite large, the fat ratio of an average middle aged businessman is higher than the typical sumo wrestler. There is really quite a lot of muscle on a wrestler's body.
They live in a highly disciplined setting similar to a commune. They aren't allowed to drive and must wear the traditional Japanese dress when seen in public. Strict tradition also dictates a hierarchy where the young sumo, Rikishi, must serve the older sumo called Sekitori. They have rigorous chores of cooking, cleaning, and preparing the bath along with their training. This causes a high dropout rate in young sumo.
The sumo live their lives as kings but there are many downsides. The average life expectancy is between 60 and 65 which is 10 years shorter than the average Japanese male.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are also major threats.
With the excessive alcohol consumption there are also liver problems and many suffer from arthritis because of the heavy stress on the joints.