Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fat guys in a little ring

I love me some sumo, as anyone who read my sports sections at the Jakarta Globe will attest. Maybe it's just my background as an offensive lineman, but the combination of speed, agility and ferocity from such large men is fascinating to me. I also find sumo interesting because of how it's considered more than just a sport, that it's considered almost a national treasure as something so uniquely Japanese.

If that last sentence has a ring of Japanese exceptionalism to it, you're probably right. There's more than a bit of that going around in sumo, especially now that the Japan Sumo Association has shown its true, nativist colors. That's par for the course in Japan, though, and not just in sports. One thing I've learned in my years as an expat is you can rail against the injustices in your life all you like, and they may well change in time, but in the meantime you either find a way to coexist or go crazy. For now, I choose to coexist.

The January basho started on Sunday in Tokyo, and Mongolian wrestler Hakuho is the prohibitive favorite, as he has been since countryman Asashoryu lost his rag one too many times. However, my cheering interest is with Baruto for two reasons -- 1) He, along with Kotooshu, is one of the few honkies in the top flight; and 2) He's the best thing to come out of Estonia since Mart Poom. Unfortunately, my guy lost via hikiotoshi to Toyonoshima on Day 1. It's still early days with 14 rounds to go, though.

Best of all, I can catch all the action now that the First Media people showed up to install my cable. NHK costs an extra 100,000 rupiah per month -- which is odd as it used to be part of the News & Information package -- but I suppose I'll pay it all the same. The J-League and Japanese Pro Baseball will start up again before too long, making for a good start to almost any Saturday between March and October.

If all goes well here, I plan to take some time off in late March/early April and visit Kyoto. The timing seems to line up -- I'd be able to take in the blooming cherry blossoms, see the old capital's myriad shrines and temples, take in some soccer, sumo and baseball and maybe even see an old friend or two. It will be expensive, of course, but I might as well do what I want while I still have the ability to take vacation.

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