Laughter rings out as sumo retirees entertain vacationers amidst Japan’s tourism growth

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Ohtori spent his two-decade sumo profession struggling for wins so he might to maneuver up the ranks of Japan’s conventional sport, however now he’s preventing to entertain a distinct crowd: curious vacationers. He’s considered one of six ex-wrestlers placing on sumo demonstrations catering to abroad travellers, who’re returning in droves after a two-year COVID-19 blockade because the weaker yen makes such journeys cheaper than they’ve been in many years.

After battling for wins and climbing the ranks in Japan's traditional sport of sumo for two decades, Ohtori now entertains curious tourists.(Reuters)
After battling for wins and climbing the ranks in Japan’s conventional sport of sumo for twenty years, Ohtori now entertains curious vacationers.(Reuters)

“I would like foreigners and Japanese individuals alike to have a larger understanding of sumo,” stated Ohtori, 40, whose full ring title, Koto-ohtori, means “harp phoenix.” “My older brothers have been at all times fairly tough,” he stated of his professional days, which he started at 15. “It is extra enjoyable now, after all, as a result of I can work together with everybody.”

His efficiency venue, Yokozuna Tonkatsu Dosukoi Tanaka, opened in central Tokyo in November 2022, a month after Japan restarted visa-free journey. Beneath its vaulted roof is a sumo ring and 14 tables the place patrons pay 11,000 yen ($76) to eat breaded pork cutlets earlier than watching – and becoming a member of – the motion.

One other former sumo wrestler, Yasuhiro Tanaka, began the restaurant after founding an organization to offer ex-wrestlers a second profession as actors in commercials and flicks. He stated he needs to recruit extra wrestlers to do night performances. On a current afternoon, Ohtori engaged in comedic and practical sparring towards his bigger opponent, Towanoyama, known as “Jumbo” by the English-speaking emcee for the sake of the all-foreign viewers.

Jose Aguillar, a quality-control supervisor from Monterrey, Mexico, had ringside seats together with his household and stated he was desirous to see one thing “iconic from Japan” on a COVID-delayed trip for his daughter’s quinceanera birthday bash. When it got here time to don a well-worn sumo costume, and face Jumbo within the ring, Aguillar was on the head of the road.

“At the start, I stated, ‘Oh, why did I select to be the primary one? I (ought to) await others,” Aguillar, 46, stated after pushing a compliant Jumbo out of the ring. “However no, it was actually, actually wonderful.”

Themed eating places are a part of a tourism ecosystem that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hopes will add 5 trillion yen a yr to the nation’s economic system. Sumo is seeing a resurgence itself after the Netflix drama “Sanctuary” concerning the sport grew to become a success in Could.

The lunch performances are full of snickers, however surgical procedure scars on Ohtori and Jumbo converse to the bodily toll of sumo, which recruits teenagers and leaves many wrestlers with scant employment prospects once they retire of their 30s. “As sumo wrestlers, we could not actually mess around in any respect,” stated Tanaka, 47, who admitted he wasn’t a very sturdy competitor. “So now I would like everybody to have the ability to earn a wage and reside a contented, gratifying life.”

This story has been printed from a wire company feed with out modifications to the textual content. Solely the headline has been modified.

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