Sumo

Sumo is a Japanese style of wrestling and Japan’s national sport. It originated in ancient times as a performance to entertain the Shinto gods. Many rituals with religious background are still followed today.

The basic rules of sumo are simple: The wrestler who either first touches the floor with something else than his sole or leaves the ring before his opponent, loses. The fights themselves usually last only a few seconds and in rare cases up to one minute or longer.

Six tournaments are held every year, each one lasting 15 days. Three of the tournaments are held in Tokyo (January, May, September), and one each in Osaka (March), Nagoya (July) and Fukuoka (November).

At the top of the sumo wrestlers’ hierarchy (banzuke) stands the yokozuna (grand champion). At the moment, there is only one yokozuna, Asashoryu from Mongolia. Once a wrestler reaches the rank of yokozuna, he cannot lose it anymore. However, he is expected to retire as soon as his results are starting to worsen.

Most elite wrestlers are highly trained athletes and between 20 to 35 years old. Besides working out, the wrestlers are eating large amounts of food and go to bed right after eating in order to gain mass. The wrestlers are living in special sumo stables where the rules are very strict, especially for lower ranked wrestlers.

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Traditional Music

There are several types of traditional, Japanese music (Hogaku). Some of the most important ones are:

  • Gagaku:
    Ancient court music from China and Korea. It is the oldest type of Japanese, traditional music.
  • Biwagaku:
    Music played with the instrument Biwa, a kind of guitar with four strings.
  • Nogaku:
    Music played during No performances. It basically consists of a chorus, the Hayashi flute, the Tsuzumi drum, and other instruments.
  • Sokyoku:
    Music played with the instrument Koto. Later also accompanied by Shamisen and Shakuhachi. The Koto is a zither with 13 strings.
  • Shakuhachi:
    Music played with the instrument Shakuhachi, a about 55 cm long flute. The name of the flute is its lenght expressed in the old Japanese length units.
  • Shamisenongaku:
    Music played with the instrument Shamisen, a kind of guitar with only three strings. Kabuki and Bunraku performances are accompanied by the shamisen.
  • Minyo:
    Japanese folk songs.

Nishizawa Valley

A densely wooded, narrow valley with picturesque waterfalls. The autumn leaves are usually best in late October and early November.

Shosenkyo Gorge

Often refered to as Japan’s most beautiful gorge, the Shosenkyo is particularly spectacular during the autumn leaf season, which usually takes place from October to mid November.

Fuji Five Lakes

Mount Fuji in combination with the lakes and autumn leaves makes a spectacular sight. The autumn leaves are usually best in late October and early November.

Hakone

The area around Lake Ashi is particularly beautiful. The autumn leaves are usually best in late October and early November.

Nikko

The Oku-Nikko region around Lake Chuzenji and Yumoto Onsen is particularly nice for koyo. Depending on the elevation, the trees are most beautiful between late September and early November.

Mount Takao

A wooded mountain, roughly one hour west of Shinjuku. The autumn leaves are usually best in the second half of November.

Koishikawa Korakuen

A Japanese style landscape garden in central Tokyo. Autumn leaves are usually best towards the end of November.

Yoyogi Koen

A Western style city park in central Tokyo. Autumn leaves are usually best in the second half of November.

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