Osaka’s Biggest Attraction Returns

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This is your chance to see the biggest and strongest athletes in Japan – LIVE in Kansai. Seven hundred members of the Japan Sumo Association, weighing anything from 80 to 273 kilos, will descend (with an almighty thud) on Osaka’s Bodymaker Colosseum for the annual spring tournament. This year’s competition runs from Sunday March 10th to Sunday March 24th, and – in keeping with Osaka sumo custom – promises much excitement.

For the uninitiated, sumo is the de facto national sport of Japan, with roots dating back 2000 years, at least if the ancient texts entitled Kojiki and Nihon Shoki are to be believed. The texts speak of mythical god-like figures deciding the fate of the Japanese islands by sumo bouts, the winner taking all. Authenticated evidence reveals that sumo has been a spectator sport at least since the 8th century, turning professional in 1757.

Sumo holds a special place in the heart of Osaka, for prior to 1925 – when the first, unified national sumo association was established – the city boasted its own independent sumo circuit. Although the connection is less strong today, the tournament remains very popular, especially as it often throws up a surprise winner.

Joint-favorite to collect the top honors this time is long-serving Grand Champion Hakuho Sho, a 194-centimeter, 155-kilogram giant from Mongolia. He has won 23 championships over the past seven years, including the last three on Osaka soil. He would have taken the last four had the 2011 Osaka event not been sensationally called off because of a match-fixing scandal.

However, Hakuho’s dominance is nothing like it used to be. Fellow Mongolian Harumafuji, a comparatively light 133 kilograms, recently became sumo’s newest grand champion. This frighteningly agile man has collected three of the past four tournaments, going unbeaten in all of those and defeating Hakuho in all of those. He more than deserves his joint-favorite billing for Osaka 2013.

Added spice will come in the form of the giant Europeans, Kotooshu and Baruto, standing 203 and 198 centimeters respectively and boasting a combined weight of 335 kilograms. Both of these men have captured the top-division championship before and, assuming their knees oblige, are a match for anyone on their day. They will be joined in their pursuit of glory by tricky Mongolian second-ranker Kakuryu, who memorably secured the runner-up award in Osaka 2012 and spectacularly blew his championship chances on the final day.

The most exciting prospect this time, though, is that of a Japanese collecting the championship for the first time in seven years (a sumo record). 166-kilogram Kisenosato is perennially tipped to break through, while his younger stablemate, 22-year-old Takayasu, secured a joint runner-up in the tournament just gone. The crowd, though, will be behind Osaka-born Goeido, one of the most technically-adept rikishi around.

The action takes place at Osaka Bodymaker Colosseum and runs from 0830-1800 every day, with the exception of later starts on the final weekend. Wrestlers in the top two divisions fight on all 15 days; wrestlers in the bottom four divisions fight only seven. The maths are simple: the wrestler with the highest number of wins in his division collects the championship. The rules are even more simple: first man out of the ring, or down within it, is the loser.

For ticket information, please check the video link.

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