Sumo+Sushi: Andy Experiences Sumo

It’s been almost 10 years since I started this blog and while I have gone to tournaments, I had never mounted a dohyo…until last night. The moment that I saw Konishiki was coming to DC, I knew I was going to buy tickets. When I saw that there was an option to get on the dohyo and give it a go, yep, I’m in. The fact that it was on my birthday meant the wife would not get to say anything about the VIP upgrades. “We’re gonna have fun!” So for the past few weeks I’ve been eagerly awaiting this night and I was not disappointed. It was an awesome night and I really want to do it again.

My mind is a product of the 80s and unfortunately seems to have been installed with an i386…in dire need of an upgrade. My terrible vision indicates I could probably go for a dedicated GPU, too. And for whatever reason, whether it’s taking calculus or giving a speech or attending a kegger or apparently “fighting” in a sumo bout, pretty much everything I experience in life is like sensory overload the first time. No matter how much I study, no matter how much I prepare, no matter how much I plan, all of it goes out the window and my mind is an utter blank while I just observe what’s happening around me. So that means that while I write to you today, all of what happened last night is a bit of a hazy blur, with a few still images, brief visual clips, sounds and emotions that will stick with me for a lifetime. That’s how long it will take this slow-ass mind to process it.

The implication is that I really need to do it again. For my second attempt, I will not have the need to try to absorb everything and I can actually focus on what I need to do. So when Konishiki mentioned that this was the first time many of the boys have been to DC, he proposed coming back in 2024. Oh, please do! It’s not Konishiki’s first time to DC, mind you. He went to the White House back during the Reagan Administration. Despite his larger than life presence and his stories, I think it escapes people how big he was in his prime — and I’m not talking about his size. He was all over media in Japan. The dude’s wedding was carried live on TV. Sumo will get there again and it will be through events like this which not only introduce newbies to the sport but also engages us more serious fans because there’s stuff there for all.


There are several options for tickets. Some will just come for the show and buy food a la carte, others get a bento. My wife pointed out that this is actually very similar to going to a sumo tournament, a fact probably missed by many of the attendees and which I had not noticed until she mentioned it. Regular readers of the blog will probably recall various times Josh, Bruce, or I have written a bit of a review of the various bentos that sometimes come with your seats. Here, it was a similar idea. The “sushi and the show” ticket has a bento provided by Zeppelin. If you go with the “Front Row” option, your bento is provided by Love, Makoto while the VIP section doesn’t have a bento, and instead has food prepared for it by Takara 14.

The Evening

The DC venue is in Ivy City near the Amtrak yard. That means nothing to y’all non-railroaders but it does mean that it’s a bit of a challenge to get there and it’s not near the usual nightlife or event venues. I’m a seasoned DC driver and a few times I’d suddenly find myself in a left turn only lane or right turn only lane. God, I hate driving in DC. I should have probably taken Metro but even from there it would have been a bit of a hike and I would have had to drive to and from our closest Metro station, anyway. Rideshares are a bit of a pain for us in the boonies to get into DC but are definitely an option. I do miss the mature transit system in Tokyo. So, don’t get me started.

I picked the 5pm show so we wouldn’t be getting home late for the kids. I promise it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a geezer and my bedtime is 9-10pm now. There seemed to be plenty of parking at the venue, though there was a $30 fee to park in the lot. The VIP package had an Early Bird arrival and its own dedicated entrance, so we got their early and went straight in. There were a few people already there when we arrived but I didn’t appreciate that Early Bird option until we were leaving and I saw the line for the second show. Great to see that kind of a turnout, that’s for sure.

I will note that my wife noticed there seemed to be very few people from the Japanese community among the crowd or in the line. Most everyone were Westerners. My wife said she didn’t see much advertising or publicity on the Japanese sites and forums she usually visits. I just point that out because there’s actually a pretty big Japanese community here. My daughter goes to Japanese school on the weekends and I would think the wrestlers would be a hit if they went and visited. One of the JAXA astronauts went last week and it was covered on the news with a photo op with the Embassy. These Sumo+Sushi events are 21+, so the kids wouldn’t be coming but I am willing to bet their parents would love to. My wife had a blast but it was all in English so it probably wasn’t an audience they necessarily thought to target.

The Food

The day before the show, I got an email with more details on the menu. I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it because I wasn’t going for the food. I was going for the action. I should have paid more attention to the food, though. It was excellent. As I mentioned above, depending on which ticket package you choose, there’s a different menu. In the VIP section, we had an open bar and instead of getting a pre-packaged bento box, our food was prepared there by the chefs of Takara 14.

Our food started with a salad of wakame and watercress. Many Japanese restaurants offer “seaweed salad” and I usually skip it because I’m not a fan of wakame. And I hate, no loathe watercress. But this was freaking good. There were little slices of watermelon, which was curious and unexpected but there was also a sesame dressing. Whether it was the dressing or not, for whatever reason, I actually liked the wakame salad. What followed was a chain of maki-style sushi rolls, nigiri, and more modern/fusion dishes.

There was tuna tartare (diced raw tuna) on shrimp crackers and mussels, then some of the usual suspects: tuna, salmon, unagi, mackerel. My favorite was the hirame because along with the crispy potatoes, it had this nice yuzu flavor. My wife, though, definitely preferred the rolls and nigiri. Either way, I was fat and happy. Full disclosure, I didn’t eat everything. I couldn’t. I was actually so full I started to get a bit worried that doing sumo might be a mistake. I definitely did not want to be known as the bloke who blew chunks on Konishiki’s dohyo. So I did let my wife have a few of my maki rolls. Nothing went to waste.

The Sumo

The show opened with taiko drumming. This group was quite good. My wife started reminiscing about her grand father and his taiko drum. He would play all of the local matsuri when she was growing up. Even though he was bald he’d have a hachimaki and his taiko, playing with their local taiko club. But I digress. The drumming was great, and is certainly very relevant to sumo because of the taiko drums played by the yobidashi at Kyokai events like honbasho and jungyo.

Next, the wrestlers were introduced and took to the ring one-by-one. Aononami, Chiyonoshin, Kirinowaka, Daikiho, Tooyama, and Somayama were each introduced and had their own walk up music while Konishiki told the audience about their sumo careers as well as a bit about their careers after sumo. Tooyama was introduced as “Big Poppa” and entered the stage to music from the Notorious BIG, and seemed to immediately become the crowd favorite. The sumo itself was broken up into three blocks, with two short intermissions separating them.

The first block explained about their basic exercises, like shiko, suriashi, and stretching and covered some of the basics of sumo, like what’s allowed and what’s not. The second block was a bit more detailed, going into the various techniques, like oshi-zumo or yotsu-zumo. They demonstrated several throws and strategies. For the third block, the six wrestlers had a play-off style tournament where the first wrestler to wrack up three wins in a row is the champion. Somayama won during our show.

It’s Time!

Finally, it was the moment I had been waiting for: I was going to compete against a real sumo wrestler. Our names were announced and we lined up ringside. I got to go first! I signed my life away, took off my shoes and climbed up the stairs to the dohyo. Since Daikiho was such a successful collegiate champion, trained at Miyagino-beya and reached makuuchi, he was my first choice but he was not available for any of us to pick. Still, he was up there on the dohyo and explained a bit of the routine to each of us. “First, you’re going to bow to each other,” “You can’t wear your glasses,” “Make sure you don’t have anything in your pockets.” etc. While I scrambled for a second choice and Daikiho sorted out my glasses and keys, the crowd started yelling for Big Poppa. So I asked for Big Poppa. Then, while Big Poppa came was getting ready, I seem to remember the MC asking where I was from and if I had any experience, it’s kind of a blur.

It looked like Big Poppa was actually about to start diving into his dinner so I immediately wished I had picked someone else, but he dutifully came up to the dohyo. We bowed to each other and I must say, my tachiai was terrible. There was definitely no, “kachin,” and no clash of heads — thankfully. Instead, I got a head full of sweaty man-boob. Anyway, he’s a big guy. Much bigger than me, that’s for sure. And having studied successful strategies for just this type of situation, I knew that okuridashi is one of the few avenues of attack for those of us with a height and weight disadvantage. If you’re able to get in behind your opponent, you can possibly force him out. So I scurried around trying to get behind Tooyama but for the most part, he just pivoted and stayed right with me.

I felt a bit silly, though, running around so I stopped and engaged him to see for myself, “how hard would it be to actually move this guy?” When I grabbed him, the answer was apparent rather quickly. “It’s hard as hell.” Others had been telling me to go for the legs, “sweep the legs,” yada, yada, yada. I’m not trying to hurt them (or me), so I went for a belt grip to actually experience that for the first time in my life. While I was tussling with the belt, I suddenly found myself upside-down and on the other side of the tawara. I have no idea how that happened. Like I said on Twitter, “I was there, and then I wasn’t.”

Watching the video is hilarious. I didn’t know he was miming spanking my ass until I saw the video, and I didn’t see his perfect execution and posing as he threw me. Remember, I was upside down and flying through the air, without glasses. And I gotta say that whatever that dohyo material was, it made for a rather soft landing. Tooyama quickly checked on me and apologized. In my head, I felt like the baby on the old sitcom, Dinosaurs. “AGAIN!” I’m thinking, “Dude, you don’t need to apologize, I paid to get thrown like that and it was worth every penny!” Unfortunately, there were about a half-dozen guys waiting their turn after me so I collected my keys and glasses, posed for a picture and ran in my bare feet back to my seat so I could ask my wife if she saw and got it on video.


We watched the others wrestle which was very entertaining. Several guys got their shirts off and I think we all know the drunk dudes in sunglasses would have taken off their pants. Somehow, Justin (Muhomatsu on Sumo Forum, Hochiyama on Twitter) beat Chiyonoshin, which is pretty cool. His wife Meredith (FakeItFrugal on Twitter) got some perfect pictures of my thrashing. This points out that if you want good pictures, bring a good camera and you might prefer a ringside seat. I’ve just got my camera phone and the zoom isn’t too great.

The phone camera was enough, though, for taking pictures with Konishiki afterwards. He was a joy to meet and I hope to see him again next year! The show really did a good job of balancing the content for those who are completely new to sumo and those who have been following it for some time. I just think that if you’re a hard core sumo fan, you MUST get in the ring. That’s just an awesome experience.

15 thoughts on “Sumo+Sushi: Andy Experiences Sumo



  2. Now Andy come on, we are all waiting for the answer to THIS question ! :

    Did the great Konishiki eventualy learned (or knew) that he was meeting the legendary Andy, creator of the world wide renoun Tachiai blog ?

    Have you asked him if he knew of the blog and what it do for the non-japanese sumo fan all around the world ? If yes, what was his reaction ? Happy ? Did he praised you ?

  3. Great for you somewhere in the District of Columbia (where I once lived).

    I have never nor am I ever likely to get anywhere near a Dohyo but one day a decade or two back I was walking up St Martin’s Lane in London, England and in front of me and walking in the same direction were three people and the one in the middle was probably the largest person I have ever seen and from his size, asiatic appearance and his robes I instantly realised this was a rikishi. I treasure the memory of that fleeting moment.

  4. Thanks for the fantastic write-up, it’s something I would love to have experienced. Sumo is I guess unusual in that most fans haven’t the remotest idea of what taking part in it actually feels like, even as an absolute beginner.

  5. First step made on the road to yokozuna. Probably you chose wrong stance. Hidari-yotsu you would have won for sure.

  6. Andy! So happy for your experience, getting on the dohyo and also getting to engage a bit with other folks from the online sumo community IRL. Amazing. CHEERS!

  7. Thanks for the report! Looks and sounds like it was a blast! I had wanted to go to the DC show, but it’s 21 and over and my son would NEVER have forgiven us if we went without him.

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    While I don’t want to be thrown from anywhere (too many physical problems myself), I would have so much fun watching this.

    I wonder if they’ll come up near the NYC or CT area….

  9. I had such fun at the NYC event. Sure, it was like jungyo shokkiri matches where pretty much everything is rehearsed and for hilarious exhibition only. But just like the laughing crowds in the jungyo tours, I enjoyed myself on cue. As a sumo fan who has yet to have an opportunity to see the sport in person, this was an evening well spent. I especially liked the kimarite portion, where the wrestlers show the moves in (effectively) slow motion. If you go into the event with the right expectations, you’re sure to have a great time!.

    • I’m glad you had fun! I really like that comparison to Jungyo and shokkiri. It’s definitely not senshuraku action but it is a fun, high quality demonstration.

      I hope you get to go watch sumo in Japan!

      Did you have food while you were there? Any review of your bento?


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