This Saturday at 9pm (Japan time), TV Japan will slip into Kokugikan for a segment. They will be accompanied by Shibatayama oyakata and everyone’s favorite bruiser, Yoshikaze. We will hopefully be able to bring you a clip!
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.
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.
A word to all of our readers, whom we deeply appreciate. Through good fortune and good friends, I am on my way to Tokyo to watch days 13/14/15 of Aki. While I am enjoying being in the Kokugikan, you will see a bit of a change up from our regular authors, and our normal posting format. We have several great contributors here at Tachiai, and they will be filling in for any of the basho news slots I might miss. Never fear, all is well (better than well!), and Tachiai will continue to be your source for all of the sumo you can wrap your hands around, each and every day.
There is a lot to see in Tokyo, so it’s hard to pick a place to start. A trip to Tokyo – sumo fan or not – is not really complete without a stop in Asakusa (浅草). However, the center of the sumo world is close by at Ryogoku. My favorite place in this neighborhood is the Yasuda garden.
The top of Kokugikan is visible in this picture, looking south. The pond has many nishiki-goi and turtles. There’s a pretty, red foot bridge and a small shrine hidden in the back.
You can reach Ryogoku via the JR Sobu line. It’s a couple of stops from Akihabara and close to Asakusa and Oshiage, home of the Sky Tree. The Yasuda garden is accessible by walking a block further north from the Kokugikan.