Sumo Art on Display in Ryogoku

While Ura may have disappeared from the dohyo, his spectacle is still very much in the minds of sumo fans and artists.

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.”

A variety of artistic techniques are on display at the exhibition.

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):

Ishiura’s rendering of Miyagino-oyakata, from his sketchbook.

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:

Follow @oekaki_paradise on instagram to see more of their fantastic, creative work.

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!”:

Another work from @oekaki_paradise: Ichinojo tends to blow hot and cold in basho, but he is certainly on fire in this image!

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?!):

@changasano‘s Kaisei tribute, featuring a clearly moved Asahisho.

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:

A couple of pages from the book of @doskoikumasan‘s works.

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.

Recommendations Threads: General Caveats

I want sumo fans to go to Japan and enjoy the sport (and the country) first hand. I also hope to expose more English speakers already in Japan to the sumo world. In that vein, I will offer my recommendations and encourage others to do the same. But, be open and frank with your relationship to the service and/or restaurant. Let’s face it, it’s very different to hear a recommendation from a customer, employee, owner or paid spokesperson. All I need to do is point at a supermodel and say, #FyreFestival, and you should get my point:

General recommendations and advise are always helpful, and I’ve got a few of those I’m going to share with you now. Don’t expect the same level of “food customization” that we have in the US.

Grilled Rooster Comb

The “Have it your way” philosophy just doesn’t seem to have taken off over there. In many cases, it’s easiest to do the “omakase” (chef’s recommendation), but have an open mind. And if you’re crazy like me, and open to eating stuff that even native Japanese don’t touch, like eel heads, 白子, 馬刺し, or grilled rooster comb, it should go without saying not to whinge afterwards. BTW, 馬刺し and grilled rooster comb are awesome. Just for the record.

So, I’m going to create a page for travel-related recommendations to focus on the four sumo venues: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. It will be in the menu bar next to the link to the Youtube video, for easy access. I know that finding posts on this site can be a bear, especially if the post was written a few months ago. But I want it to look nicer than what I’ve got for the “Japanese Lessons” page right now that’s basically just a series of links. It may start out that way but I’d love to have a way for people to share their own recommendations, and maybe even photos.

Also, Twitter is another great medium for sharing photos. Please Tweet to us or Instagram. I just signed up for Instagram on @tachiaiblog. I don’t have anything up there yet but will start sharing some of my sumo related pictures there.