Biwako Basho sumo held in Otsu
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.