When I was done at the Meiji Shrine I needed to make the long trip back to Kokugikan Stadium to see the afternoon and evening sumo matches. The ushers were checking everyone’s tickets when I got there so I made my way to the upper level and found my actual seat. One of the wrestlers had just won an important match and there was some sort of ceremony going on to honor him. As I looked around the stadium I saw that the seats were rapidly filling up and within a few minutes of my arrival there was hardly an empty spot to be found.
For the next three or four hours I took in the spectacle of sumo. Unlike the morning hours, the crowd during the professional matches was loud and enthusiastic. Some wrestlers seemed to have their own cheering sections with chants ringing out when they took to the platform. Being up in the stadium’s second level, my view wasn’t as good as it had been in the morning and I didn’t take many photos but thankfully I was only one row back from the front so I could still clearly make out everything that was happening. In between matches there were sometimes parades of guys holding banners of an individual wrestler’s sponsors (the more banners you have, the better) and during the four or five minutes of ceremony that precede each fight some of the wrestlers would engage in bits of showmanship to pump up the crowd (and maybe intimidate their opponent). I remember one wrestler did a big stretch that got the crowd excited and his opponent responded with an even bigger stretch that made everyone go nuts. The stadium was pulsing with energy that night and it was kind of disappointing when the last match ended and everyone started to leave. I can’t say that I left Kokugikan Stadium as a newly created fan of sumo but it was a really fun night and I’d like to do it again one day.