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Fukurou

Attending Morning Training at a Heya?

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Inside Tokyo's Secretive Sumo Stables - from CNN.com

A bit of a guide to attending morning training at a heya, with lots of do's and don'ts. Also, beware when it comes to visiting! Or, as Mark Buckton was quoted in the article:

"To be a guide means you're Japanese. It doesn't mean you know what you're talking about.

"I've heard them come out with all sorts of BS about what's happening and tourists don't know what's right and what's wrong."

(mods - please move if this isn't the right area)

Edited by Fukurou
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Looks like an awesome experience! Bookmarking it for when I'm in the area. :-)

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To judge the amount of research that went into this article, try following the link to Sumo Fan Magazine, where the date at the top is today's but underneath, the lead article refers to Kakuryu as a new Ozeki. I just took a look to see if the free online magazine had been restarted, but it seems that it all froze some time ago (check for yourselves when current Yokozuna Kakuryu was promoted to the Ozeki rank!) and only the date at the top is automatically moved on.

I don't have time to go into details but I get the impression that the lady who wrote the article has indeed done some asageiko watching (maybe a couple of times, and using a journalist's special privilege to obtain entry?) but doesn't appear to have interviewed any tourists who have indeed gained entry to a sumo stable (which is a heya not a beya unless the name is in compound) by getting someone from their hotel to ring ahead. I myself have spoken to several groups who had been turned away and complained bitterly that their hotel desk clerk claimed to have made an appointment. In the tourist seasons, I sometimes see up to six small groups being turned away from the heya I live just across the road from, though since they made a big sign in both Japanese and English it has been common to see the would-be visitors simply trudge on to try the next on their list -- where I know only too well that they will be turned away at that place, too.

This change in attitude goes back more than ten years, to a big international football event that the sumo people feared would attract "hooligans", so the statement about a recent rise in foreign tourists visiting sumo-beya to watch training sessions is the exact opposite of the real situation. In all fairness Buckton's quoted statements are all perfectly accurate, including that about rogue heya putting on a show for a hefty fee.

Note, too, that when I say I have seen half-a-dozen groups in one morning failing to get into my local heya, I only notice this when I look down from my balcony or put out the garbage; I do not keep a close watch for the whole training time, which you will also find is mainly six till ten.

So if you're planning a visit, check out other sources of information before building high hopes.

Orion

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