This is secretive world of Japan’s elite sumo wrestling where wrestlers eat 8’000 calories a day and wear oxygen masks while they nap. Incredible images have emerged from inside the Tomozuna sumo ‘stable’ in Nagoya, Japan, where 11 gigantic wrestlers wear only loincloths and take turns throwing each other out of a ring of sand.The wrestlers, or ‘rikishi’, spend more than three hours each morning practising holds in Japan’s 15 century’s old national sport, with defeat facing the first to fall or be forced out of ring.
When they end practice at 10.30am, they sign autographs and pose for images before the first of their two daily meals.Lunch, prepared by junior wrestlers, is a spread of pig’s feet, grilled and deep-fried sardines, steamed rice, and ‘chanko nabe’ a signature hot-pot dish associated with sumo wrestlers, who consume 8’000 calories a day.Wrestlers nap for several hours immediately after eating, wearing oxygen masks to aid breathing.Reuters documented daily life of the wrestlers at their Buddhist temple base for the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament that began last week.
Entering the world of sumo is to eat, live, and breathe Japanese from samurai-style topknots to the rigid hierarchy.But the tough training and tradition-bound ways have put off many Japanese youth, leaving sumo to be dominated by foreign mostly Mongolian wrestlers, who face a gruelling path to assimilation.’Language was the biggest source of stress,’ toldTomozuna Oyakata, better known by his fighting name Kyokutenho, the first Mongolian born wrestler to lead a sumo stable.’I couldn’t understand anything when I was being scolded, or even when I was being praised,’ said the master, one of the first six Mongolians to be inducted into sport in 1992.
Today, one-time champion, who was born Nyamjavyn Tsevegnyam, speaks near flawless Japanese, has a Japanese wife, and has given up his Mongolian nationality to become Japanese a requirement to become a sumo master, or ‘oyakata’.Full assimilation into Japanese culture means that foreign wrestlers face no ill-will.’We wear our topknots, kimonos and sandals, and live by Japanese rules, and rules of sumo,’ told Tomozuna Oyakata.’It’s only by chance that we were born a different nationality.’