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!
Last night, I was tipped off on Instagram by cultured rikishi and occasional GQ model Ishiura that an exhibition of paintings from 21st century artists was currently taking place in Sumida. The exhibition lasts until the 12th of May at the Free Space Ryokuichi, a small gallery not far from Kokugikan. Miyagino-beya’s resident gym enthusiast implored his followers to check it out thusly:
So with these details in mind, I headed over to Ryogoku today. The gallery is easily missable, however there was a sign out front welcoming visitors. The official name of the exhibit is “Sumo-e Artists of the 21st Century,” and the handout at the door touted it as “a collection of sumo illustrations, created by diverse sumo-lovers in Japan, ranging from a high-school student to professional painters.”
When I arrived, the friendly folks looking after the exhibit handed me a cup of tea and asked how I found out about it. When I mentioned that I had seen Ishiura’s post, they directed me to a sketchbook of Ishiura’s own work. It contained a number of his own drawings of his stablemates and stylised slogans in English. I did quite like his rendering of stablemaster Migayino (ex-Chikubayama):
And Ishiura wasn’t the only rikishi to flex his artistic pedigree. Herouth noted Terutsuyoshi’s entrance into the world of sumi-e inkwork earlier in the week:
One of the great features of the event is that it not only credits the artists traditionally, but allows punters to also find new artists to follow on Instagram. Artist @oekaki_paradise created this beautiful set of Russian Dolls, and a bewitching Takayasu mobile which spins the hirsute Ozeki and his sagari as you pull the string:
Many of our followers will be familiar with Twitter’s @color_sumo, and will be happy to know that their highly evocative work was also represented here. The incredible diversity of the styles and techniques meant that even though the gallery is quite small, it was easy to spend quite a bit of time studying various pieces. A collage of Hakuho, including kensho envelopes, hung over this painting of everyone’s favourite Mongolian horse-wrangler Ichinojo, which had one guest screaming “sugoi! sugoi!”:
Twitter user @changasano, meanwhile, had two excellent works on display. One was a piece featuring all of the sekitori in various themed costumes, and I quite enjoyed this rendering of a sleepy Kaisei being covered in a blanket by Tomozuna-oyakata while he dreams of his stablemates and the media (presumably after winning a yusho?!):
I always enjoy the work of instagrammer and artist @doskoikumasan whenever it pops into my feed, and they had an entire book of their work on display. Clearly they’ve been inspired by the latest wave of sumo elders, as Araiso and Oshiogawa were already well represented:
All in all, it was a fantastic way to spend a half hour on a Saturday afternoon in Tokyo, and the curators handed me a small cake on the way out, along with some postcards, as a gift of appreciation for my attendance. If you’re in Tokyo this week, be sure to check it out! If there are additional sumo artists whose you enjoy, feel free to share them in the comments section.
Sumo-e Artists of the 21st Century Exhibition runs until May 12 at the Ryokuichi Free Space in Ryogoku. It will be closed on May 7th and 8th, but otherwise is open between 1 and 6pm. Ryokuichi Free Space is located at 1-8-3 Midori, Sumida-ku.
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.
I’m from North Carolina so I’m pretty picky about barbecue. I’m not not a fascist about it, so I don’t just eat our pulled pork BBQ. I definitely enjoy Texas style, Memphis style, as well as various international barbecues, particularly cochinita pibil from the Yucatan in Mexico. This is relevant because in Japan, it’s pretty hard to find Western BBQ. Sure, there’s yakiniku all over the place, and great Korean bulgoki/galbi places…it’s just very hard to find Western BBQ.
One of my favorite things about good barbecue is the way it’s so soft and tender after low-and-slow cooking. A great sign is the way that it falls off the bone when you pull on the meat. I was really impressed with the barbecue ribs at this restaurant. It’s called Kadoyama and it’s on the third floor of a building near Ryogoku station. The flavor was amazing but what really sealed the deal for me was the way that I was able to basically unwrap the meat from the bone with my fork. I only needed a knife to basically hold the ribs in place.
By the time I thought to take a picture of the dish, I’d already finished. Sorry. The website has decent pictures of their food but I really wish I’d thought of it before I ate. The presentation was excellent for a $10 lunch. I mean, back here in DC, a slice of pizza costs $4. Most food trucks run you ten bucks, easy, and you don’t even get a glass of water, or a chair, or silverware (and you can forget about service). It still befuddles me how those silly “experts” claim Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world. This particular dish was served with mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad, and bread – all tasted great. In the States, I’d be expecting to pay $25-$30.
Anyway, if you all are making a pilgrimage to Ryogoku and have a hankering for some western food, swing by. Great food.