Saturday, February 13, 2010

Grand Sumo Tournament - Tokyo

On February 5th Sumo's Grand Champion Asashoryu resigned following a long line of sumo code transgressions culminating in a drunken assault outside a nightclub. (please stop for a minute and imagine defending yourself against a drunk sumo).

On Feb 7, 2010 there was a one day knock out sumo tournament held in Tokyo. After years of failing to make it to Sumo (including one set of unused tickets) we finally made arrangements to go. It was a fantastic event. We had high hopes and it was even better than expected.

We arrived at about 1:30 not long before the main event was to start. There were some lesser bouts and demonstrations before that. We saw some tiny kids from Tokyo International School fighting with sumos. Then there was a parade of the competitors. Then the knockout event started.

There were lots of great bouts. The we've always rather liked the Bulgarian sumo Kotooshu (yes, there are lots of foreign sumos). He made it to the final round. But our new favourite is Takamisakari from Aomori. He really wound the crowd up with lots of aggressive posturing before each fight. When he lost there were cushions thrown all over the place. The final winner was Goeido who knocked out the Mongolian favourite in the semifinal.

The Winner Receives his Ticket

We were seated in the outer ring in the downstairs section. Great seats I think. We paid about 6000 yen each in blocks of 4. They were more like 10,000 yen each, but we got a discount through our company. Imagine the size of cushions in a Japanese restaurant and then image a small section with 4 of those together for 4 people. It was a tight fit. Go with people you don't mind being jammed together with and/or get more than 1 seat each. On the other hand we weren't uncomfortable with 4 in our box.

Since it was our first time at sumo so I can't say how it compared with other sumo tournaments. My impression was that since this was not part of the regular tournament schedule the competitors were more relaxed and we saw some horsing around by the sumos that I don't normally see on TV.

There was one foreign guy with his girlfriend (Japanese, I guess) who were dressed in yokata. They looked really cool. That might be fun for next time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

St. Michael's Church - Nasu, Tochigi. Class Act or Kitch Wonderland?

Map Location

We've driven past St. Michael's many times. Its a rather kitch looking castle that fits into its Nasu Tokyo visitors paradise environment. We've never been tempted to go in. After 2 very positive visits it seems we have to admit we were mistaken.

Coffee Shop
We stopped in hoping to have our lunch there. We know their sister restaurant in Nasu Garden Outlet to have rather good Italian food. We were too late for lunch but had very good desserts and ok coffee there for not much more than 1000 yen a head. The service was great.

So we decided to have a meal there. Warning: Its not as cheap as the places we normally write about. When we went they had set menus for 6000 and 9000 a head and an a la carte menu. We all ordered the 6000 yen set menu. It was excellent quality with interesting dishes and diverse tastes, well worth the money. The restaurant was beautiful and the service very attentive. We felt very out of place in our Nasu hiking gear. We're going to need to go back for good photos. Next time we have a plan to stay up in Nasu and go there. The food would definitely pair well with a good wine.

Event Venue
I still think the chapel is a bit kitch. The main building is pretty nice and the dinning hall is great!