Noted Sumo media icon John Gunning has authored another excellent piece for the Japan Times, reviewing the visit by US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Kokugikan during the final day of the Natsu basho.
From his article
Trump isn’t the first head of state to watch a sumo tournament, nor the first president to hand over a trophy in the ring, but the excessive security presence, and over-the-top restrictions put in place on the day, were illustrative both of the outsized importance of his office and the extreme emotions the man himself generates.
Any visit to sumo by a member of the Imperial family necessitates increased security, but nothing approaching the level of controls and checks at the Kokugikan last Sunday had ever been implemented.
Much has been made of the fact that sumo fans were those most negatively affected by the president’s presence.
As well as a reduction in the amount of available regular tickets, the number of same-day unreserved seats was cut in half, with the result that only those who had started queuing by 10 p.m. the night before were able to get in.
For fans that did attend, there were a number of differences too.
Cans and plastic bottles were banned, while any liquids in soft containers had to be sampled in front of security to prove that they weren’t dangerous substances.
Fans had to walk through metal detectors and have their bags searched on the way in, all the while being watched by the police and members of the U.S. Secret Service.
Facilities and services normally available at the venue were also curtailed or severely restricted.
One thing that John touches on briefly in his article is the monstrous logistic problems the President’s visit created. Specifically the heightened security protocol forced people to wait in an unthinkably long queue in hot and humid conditions while their bags were checked and they passed through a metal detector. Most Japanese folks can take summer weather, but the fans at the Kokugikan do tend to skew towards the elderly side of life, and it’s never good to put the older crowd in the heat. Some specifics (culled from our live blog):
Here is a photo of the security line, stretching from the station, to Edo-Tokyo museum, then back and through the front gates. Crazy!
Another image of the cursed line to get into the Kokugikan. This is especially tough as its a hot and humid day today, and some of the more aged sumo fans might be in dire shape standing in line for hours.
A sumo fan who endured the line illustrates its enormity below
国技館入場待ち、江戸博まで折り返した列がさらに伸びまくっていまこんなんなってる。1時間は待つだろう。テンションあげなきゃとボヘミアンラプソディーのサントラを聴き出した。 pic.twitter.com/KcsE39VHC9— karuhamorioをうるさくした感じ (@karuhamorioana) May 26, 2019
I get that a presidential visit requires a level of security, but in hind sight it really does seem over the top. Perhaps if President Trump returns to a future Natsu basho, as he has mentioned, they will dial back the security somewhat.