Watching Sumo

Fuden-An: Leaves from a Tea-Journal

Watching Sumo

KOBORI Sojitsu (the 13th Grand Master of the Enshu Sado School )

Various provisions are being made throughout the country to deal with the summer heat and limit the use of electricity. What is most important is that everyone is aware of the problem. Since everyone is different, however, much has to be left up to the individual’s good judgment.

In any case, I hope that Japan will one day become a country which other countries will want to emulate when it comes to its policies on the environment, energy and nuclear power.

Now, I would like to tell you a story that happened a little while ago.

In May I received an invitation to watch a sumo match. Not only was it a seat in the VIP section, it was the last match of the season. Since it was a rare opportunity, I gladly accepted and attended the match with three members of my family.

There was a great turnout at the May tournament this year because there was talk that a Japanese wrestler would win the tournament for the first time in a while. When i arrived at the national sport hall in Ryogoku, there was a different atmosphere from what I had felt during previous visits. As expected, since it was the last day of the tournament, there was a feeling of splendor and excitement in the air. Although the tournament did build up to a final decisive match, the details of which you all know well, it was disappointing that we have not had a Japanese champion in 6 years.

The awards ceremony started thirty minutes earlier than usual. I have seen sumo several times at the national sports hall but this was the first time that I saw the awards ceremony. There is something about the awards ceremony that has made me wonder for a while. And that is, before the Japanese national anthem is played, an announcement is played within the hall asking everyone to 'Please stand'. While I do not take issue with the standing, I do not understand why it is necessary to make an announcement.

Everywhere in the world, it is only natural that when one's national anthem is being played, one stands without having to be told. I have always wondered why Japan is different on that point. I have come to realize, however, that what I had thought was partly mistaken.

That is to say, there are a variety of seats in the national sport hall and not everyone has the same view of the hall; the tatami seats which seat four people in particular can be quite cramped. As a result, there are people who are sitting in the seiza position with their feet tucked underneath one. Those who are seated this way appear very proper and can be confused as to whether they ought to stand when the national anthem is played. This is why it is necessary to prompt these people to stand.

The national anthem echoed throughout the hall as everyone stood and listened. In addition to the Japanese, there were many foreign members of the audience who stood out of respect. I found myself singing even louder than usual. This day reminded me of the deep emotion that is still left in the Japanese people.