On April 1st I took the train from Kyoto two hours over to Ise shrine on the east coast for the first jungyo of the season.
Ise is viewed as one of the most important shrines in Japan and pretty much everyone makes a pilgrimage there at least once. So this was my time, less for the shrine, more for the sumo: Rikishi alfresco!
Sumo-wise, not a lot to relate given that it was a jungyo. As has been reported elsewhere, Hakuho won, after dragging Toyonoshima around the dohyo and then both collapsing laughing.
Asashoryu went out early, tamely stepping out against Kisenosato and then disappearing off home, although he’d done a pretty good job of meeting and greeting fans, wandering through the crowd like all the other sekitori.
Speaking of which, it was a sekitori swarm, a throng, they were everywhere, just ambling around, posing for photos, signing autographs, generally being smiley and happy (except Kotooshu who barrelled his way through the crowds and took refuge in a closed tent – I didn’t see him stop and acknowledge anyone). Actually Kokkai didn’t look too happy either, which was bizarre, but everyone else was relaxed, hanging out in the sun and very happy to talk.
Tochiazuma was there just for the dohyo iri – he didn’t look well. If he said tomorrow that he was retiring, I’d be relieved; he hardly even looked like himself.
Oga was there too – very smiley, wearing his kesho mawashi with him as yumitori, but as we knew, he’d relinquished that task to another, Minanosato, current Sandanme E48.
As usual there was singing and hilarity, the Zakuras, Kita and Toyo, winding up the crowd during the sumo jinku. And lots of fun sumo – knocking off gyoji hats, mage pulling.
Kitanoumi Rijicho was there, walking through the crowd like everyone else, albeit guarded by Orora. I even saw him grinning – must have been sunstroke!
Takamisakari was even more out of control than usual. He stumbled through the crowd, spotted Hakurozan, jumped on him and started wrestling in the middle of all the fans. Poor Hakurozan was laughing and trying to fend him off.
If you want to see the sekitori at their most relaxed, most sociable, you should head to a jungyo. Of course, the sumo itself is just playing, but it’s worth it to see the guys having fun.