Wishes for a Trip to Fukuoka

kotoshogiku
“Sho” me the belly

Earlier this year, Herouth shared with us the Tanabata festival – where rikishi participated in the ritual of writing down one’s wishes to be hung from a bamboo. While the festival usually takes place on or around July 7, the rikishi largely wrote their wishes for what was then the upcoming campaign (and in many cases for life in general: my two personal favourites being Ishiura’s desire to create more children and Chiyotairyu’s “I need money” plea).

I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing experiences in sumo this year – from Golden Week to the Jungyo, meeting the legendary Konishiki and conducting some fun interviews for the site. As we head into the final honbasho of 2018, I’d like to share some of my wishes for the upcoming tournament. The Kyusho basho in Fukuoka will complete my “set” of all four honbasho locations. I think it’s fair to say it’s also – at least for westerners – probably the more obscure and difficult location to reach, owing to its distance from most major entry ports to Japan.

Reception for Local Heroes

There’s no question that sumo fans have their favourites, and the likes of Mitakeumi and Endo notably have massive cheering sections most days of each basho. Watching the Kyushu basho in past years on TV however, I’ve noticed that the locals from that part of the country – who aren’t all typically fan favourites – tend to get a fantastic reception in their “home” tournament. Of course, Yoshikaze’s head-first “berzerker” style is beloved by sumo fans worldwide, but I’m looking forward to experiencing first hand how the local crowd will receive #BigGuns Shohozan and Kotoshogiku. While it’s probably too much to wish for the famous back-belly bend from the former Ozeki, he’s not getting any younger and this may be one of the last chances (if not the last) to see him close to his hometown crowd.

Yatai

It’s impossible to talk about sumo culture without talking about food culture. In Tokyo, you can get anything you want, most anytime that you want it. In Nagoya, for me, well, it’s all about the katsu. Osaka is the nation’s kitchen and incredible delights of okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and shockingly, the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever had are within 3 minutes of sumo’s Kansai venue. But Fukuoka has a unique experience I’m looking to enjoy, which are the “Yatai” food stalls which line the city. Each stall has around 5 or 6 indoor seats and gets built up every day before being taken down every night, with vast ranges in the types of cuisine on offer. NHK World did a good piece on these Yatai which I highly recommend, as it has helped open my eyes to what promises to be a delicious local flavour I can add to my sumo experience.

Performance

As we touched on in this week’s Tachiai podcast (audio here, video here), I’m looking for some big results in Kyushu: An Ozeki yusho challenge. The return of low ranked Maegashira snaffling sansho special prizes. Storming returns to form from the local rikishi. Abi to continue to discover his potential for greatness if he can harness the reach of those long arms to go with his superstar personality and dexterity. Ishiura to henka Tokushoryu in the Juryo playoff and Tomokaze to join Enho, Wakatakakage and Mitoryu in the 2018 class of new sekitori to consolidate their status as the next class of top professionals.

But most of all, I’m looking forward to the experience of just being there. As many of our readers – and Bruce, from his last minute jaunt to Aki – can attest, there is nothing like the atmosphere and excitement of live sumo, and a day out at the arena with thousands of your newest, bento-box munching, shikona-laden-towel waving, chanko-devouring friends. Hakkeyoi!

8 thoughts on “Wishes for a Trip to Fukuoka


  1. Don’t miss out on the tonkotsu ramen! Look for small shops with red lanterns and not for the big chains. While their local tonkotsu variant, the Hakata ramen, is not as awesome as the one in Kagoshima, it is one of the things that sets Kyushu apart from the rest of Japan. 🙂

    There is also a quite good international airport in Fukuoka, right in the middle of the city, so reaching the venue is a breeze. It is well connected directly to Europe, although I don’t know about the US. But probably the best combo to go there from abroad is to transfer in Nagoya, as they have an onsen there at the transfer terminal, so you can arrive all fresh and ready for the slight chance of seeing a Kotobawaaa.


    • Nice shouts all, Gabor! The Hakata style Tonkatsu ramen is definitely on my hit list.

      And also your comment is a nice segue as I will be covering how I put the trip together and access to the venue/airport/etc in another post I’ve written for later this week. Had rather discounted transfers from Nagoya though on account of it getting less connections than Osaka, Haneda or Narita but will work that in. Super!


      • Personally not one of my favorites, but if going to Fukuoka, you should also try Motsunabe, karashii mentaiko and Mizutaki. The last one probably needs some explanation on how to eat 😉
        In general seefood in Fukuoka is very good. I also like the blend between japanese and korean cuisine a lot.


      • Yes, it is true that connections from Nagoya are much less frequent to anywhere in Japan. As a result it is almost always a long layover, but you can easily leave the airport to go to the city for a few hours, plus this is where the onsen comes into play. Nothing as refreshing as a few hours in an onsen just after a long 10+ hours flight, while watching planes on the runway.

        One other thing I do a lot during these long transfers is to go to the city and have hitsumabushi, which is a grilled eel dish special to Nagoya. Also, connections to Europe are great through Nagoya due to Finnair, but other places might be much more difficult as you said. The problems I always had with Narita and Kansai is that they are so far out of the city, so if you have to wait long, you are stuck at the airport. Haneda is also good in this regard, minus the onsen.

        Have a nice trip to Fukuoka and do crazy yataimuraing with old dudes. Also one more Kyushu thing: sochu (distilled alcohol usually made from sweet potatoes), and lots of it. Mixed with hot water, as it is winter. Don’t forget to pour the hot water first, then the sochu; that will surely get you a few respectable nods from the old guys at the yatais. 🙂


  2. I’m going to the sumo for the first time next week so was wondering if anyone who’s been before could help out with some logistical questions.

    First – What’s the food and drink like at the venues? I hear you’re not supposed to bring your own but don’t know how strict they are on that?

    Secondly I heard you can leave and re-enter once. Again do they enforce the one re-entry or can you come and go more often in reality?

    Would be most grateful for any pointers!

    Incidentally in terms of getting there one option (the one I’m doing) is flying to Kansai and then using the JR West Sanyo Sanin pass which covers the whole area between Kansai airport and Hakata. Good if you want to see other places in West Japan as it covers among other places Hiroshima, Okayama, Kyoto and Himeji.


    • Taken with a grain of salt as I’ve not attended Fukuoka yet, just the others, but:

      In my opinion, the food is usually good, not great. If there’s a special chankonabe on (usually in Tokyo, the chanko might be prepared by, or with the resume from a stable), then it’s worth queuing up for. Other than that, usually there is some selection of yakitori, snacks, sushi, etc. People may violently disagree with me, but I’ve never really been that impressed with the yakitori. Usually it’s stuff that’s good enough to get through the day and hits the spot. There are usually a handful of NSK/sumo themed treats. Also at the bottom of the above post I’ve linked to an old article where you can see what’s inside some of the rikishi-themed bento boxes.

      I’ve always seen the re-entry policy enforced so I’ve never challenged it. I usually just stay for the day but if I have to go out to the ATM because there’s some sweet sumo swag I need, you will get your hand stamped by a stamp that shows up under black light and then that’s how you get back in as well.


    • The last time I went to sumo in Fukuoka, I went with local friends and we picked some snacks at a convini before. I don’t recall any checks of our bags. There is plenty of choice on food inside thought and it is more reasonably priced than it would be in western arenas. I think there were a variety of bento boxes, yakisoba, yakitori, etc.
      I can’t really comment on the leaving and coming back, as that never came to my mind 😉 But generally Japanese don’t bend rules. If it says leave and return once, you will prolly receive a stamp or something on your ticket and there will only be one.

      The JR West pass is indeed an incredible value offer, if one is to Japan on a tourist visa.

      There is an onsen at the harbor site near the convention center, which is quite nice to relax after the basho.

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