Finally we got to see SUMO! Although not the actual contest, but it felt just as good to see them practice in their sumo stables within such close proximity!
Photo: With current Sekiwaki (Sumo 3rd rank) Aminishiki, 33 years old.
We reached a sumo stable called Isegahama Beya to see the wrestlers practice in the morning. There was a pungent smell of powder and slight humidity in the air once we entered the house. The practice room was not big and was located right in front of the main entrance. The ring that you see in sumo tournaments was also installed at the center of the room. Wrestlers were either challenging each other inside the ring or observing matches. Some were also practicing by themselves: walking to and fro using the side of their feet, beating a wooden pillar or lifting dumbbells. I noticed that everyone had some small bandages around their toes, ankles or fingers.
The first one to be "trashed" was the newest and youngest apprentice. We thought he would die because he was panting so hard and trying to get back to his feet after relentless challenges from his seniors. When he was too late or had an error, he was punished. Guess what, he is only 17! Yet, he kept on saying yes to the orders and persevered his training. Such sportsmanship is remarkable and we were very impressed.
When the juniors finish their training, they slowly retreat to prepare everyone's lunch. Despite what's left are the seniors in white belt challenging each other, there were dedicated juniors serving each senior, like to get water and use towels to wipe off their dirt from the body.
The final wrestler that got his practice was the top rank wrestler of the stable, current Oozeki (Sumo top 2nd rank) Harumafuji. To end their training session, they did some exercises and performed a short ritual to thank the gods for their blessings.