selling almost everything you can find in the actual stadium during
honbasho, serve their purpose and undoubtedly fill a niche during the
non-honbasho months, but the heart of sumo souvenirdom is to be had
back indoors – back in the stadium proper – back within spitting
distance of the dohyo
One small stall-cum-table top with accompanying shelf unit serves as the unofficial sumo-related bookstall during the 15 days of the basho with sumo directories, magazines and related CDs, DVDs and videos all for sale at relatively reasonable prices. Banzuke and even bintsuke, for those willing to take a passion for a sport just that little bit too far, round off the best selection of up-to-date sumo books for sale I have found in a decade of searching.
Admittedly far from comparable to the Sumo Museum exhibits (‘Do not touch’ signs notwithstanding) and the public libraries round Tokyo with their own outstanding collections of sumo literature, this is the ONE stop not to be missed if attending a basho and looking for something to last longer than a chocolate bar or rikishi-headed glove puppet – especially so if you don’t live in Japan.
As with all sports though, there is, of course, a lot of ‘kitsch’ – some mentioned above - and most souvenirs can be easily ignored for the more serious fan but for kids there is something to attract all tastes – none of the little ones need go home empty handed and the parents won’t be too depressed about the cost of it all.
For the ‘fan’s fan’ though – the bona fide collector who supposedly knows his or her stuff, the pickings to be had are away from the Kokugikan, often buried away in the thousands of little shops in the nation’s capital, but this is where the fun is to be had – and the key word is ‘authentic’. This, however, is
|where the problems start.
Who, in the Japanese capital, do you trust to sell you the real thing – the honmono? A professional with a quarter century of sumo deals behind him but no love of the sport? The man with the undocumented items (sadly much sumo has to offer is undocumented) that come tagged ‘super rare’ or ‘highly collectible’?
Do we turn to Yahoo auctions or similar ? Are personal connections the way to go? The truth is out there, as Fox would say while taking a few moments off the quest to find his sister, but in reality, things need not be so difficult.
Genuine pieces CAN be had but primarily from the original source.
For sumo-related artwork look no further than the sport’s premier artist Lynn Matsuoka. A long-term resident of Japan, quite literally married to the sport, Lynn has produced more sumo pieces over the years than any comparable artist – Japanese or otherwise.
The classics – tegata and even scrolls adorned with kanji said written by respected yokozuna - will come at a multiple zero premium and will always be touted as original but can the vendor prove it? Does he or she need to? Would a fake be worth producing?
Genuine Baruto tegata
back-up do you, the chap or chappess sat in the EU, America or other
have that this is IT – the piece you have been searching for for so
As with any avenue of collecting it is necessary to be careful of the fakes and always ask for proof of purchase or better still authentication although a degree of flexibility is advisable given the nature of collecting oldies handed down and at some point sold to antique shops or involved in house clearances. Documents proving authenticity oftentimes just DO NOT EXIST.
One point anyone would do well to remember though is the need to treat with caution any source with a literal conveyer belt of ‘rare’ goodies. As soon as one is sold another comes on the market – via the same source? Time for the alarm bells to be ringing. Hmmmmm?
The times this writer has been offered sumo-related ‘originals’ / ‘authentics’ etc by such peddlers and has had such pieces checked by contacts in the know deep within the vaults of sumo history and antiquities in the NSK, he cannot recall. The times he has seen pieces authenticated thereafter he can – once.
In and of itself that should speak volumes. Volumes!
The business of sumo-related souvenirs above and beyond the fluff, mass-produced and offered in bulk, is a serious business, and only those with a source beyond reproach should enter. And, when you do, do so with eyes wide open.
Part II: Looking at the ‘real deal’ of sumo goodies in the next issue.