Only two years after the Maibara Basho sumo exhibition tournament was held in Oct. 2008, grand sumo came to Shiga again during Oct. 24-25, 2010. It was to mark the 40th anniversary of the Shiga Prefectural Gymnasium (滋賀県立体育館) in Otsu where the basho was held.
Yokozuna Hakuho, on a winning streak of 62 consecutive wins, and the rest of the top sumo wrestlers and staff totaling about about 270 were on hand to entertain about 2,700 spectators each day. Ticket prices ranged from 13,000 to 2,000 yen.
The day’s activities started at 8 am and included the usual program at sumo exhibition tourneys. First you could watch them practice on the sumo ring. Then from 11 am, they wrestled with about 20 little local kids. The tournament started at 11:30 am and ended at 3 pm. They also injected some entertainment such as comic sumo, sumo jinku singing, and taiko drumming demo.
Unfortunately, I didn’t go. But I was impressed by reports of Yokozuna Hakuho and Kokonoe Oyakata (exhibition tour director, sumo stablemaster, and formerly Yokozuna Chiyonofuji) paying a courtesy call on the Abbot of Enryakuji atop Mt. Hiei in Otsu on the 24th. Kokonoe Oyakata has had a friendship with the Tendai Abbot (半田孝淳天台座主) for 30 years. Kokonoe and Hakuho worshipped at Enryakuji’s main worship hall called Konpon Chudo before meeting with the Abbot. Sumo wrestlers represent the Shinto religion, but they have no qualms about praying at Buddhist temples. Heck, even the Emperor visited Enryakuji when he visited Otsu. But then Enryakuji still maintains close ties with Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine at the foot of Mt. Hiei.
The Abbot gave Hakuho a large, framed placard written with the kanji characters 調息, which means to control the rhythm of one’s breathing, as in meditation. Later in Nov. during the Kyushu sumo tournament, Hakuho failed to break Futabayama’s record of 69 consecutive wins.
The annual Maibara Hikiyama Festival was held on Oct. 9-11, 2010 near Maibara Station. I went to see it on Oct. 10 (Sun.). It rained in the morning and the floats were covered with blue vinyl sheets, but the rain stopped by early afternoon and I watched it at Yutani Shrine. Google Map
The festival was modeled after the more famous Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri. Although the Maibara Hikiyama Matsuri is a smaller festival with only three floats (only two of them appear during the festival), it was no less impressive with the highly-trained grade school boys performing kabuki on the ornate floats.
Went to see the Mt. Ibuki Taiko Drum Dance (伊吹山奉納太鼓踊り Ibukiyama Hono Taiko Odori) on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010. It is held only once every five years. I saw it before 5 years ago, but this time I wanted to take better videos and photos (with higher resolution cameras). Luckily, it didn’t rain during the festival, but this dance did seem to beckon the rain, as it rained later in the day.
Held in a small settlement called Ueno at the foot of Mt. Ibuki in Maibara, Shiga Prefecture. There’s Sannomiya Shrine near where you board the gondola (and the old chair lift) to go up Mt. Ibuki. Long ago, villagers in Ueno prayed for rain by doing the thunder dance by beating drums and bells, lighting torches, etc., in Mt. Ibuki. Then after the rainfall and a good harvest in autumn, they danced in appreciation. The dance they perform today is based on this thanksgiving dance. Google Map
The taiko drummers spent three and a half months since June to practice. I have posted the video above. This is my first 15-min. video at YouTube, after they started allowing 15-min. video clips (instead of only 10 min.).