There are many sumo fans among diplomats posted to Japan. But how much is known about the history, aesthetics, and stylistic beauty of sumo wrestling? Mrs. Joan Mitchell van der Vliet, spouse of The Netherlands ambassador to Japan, invited spouses of EU ambassadors to the third event in her “Coffee & Culture” series held at the Dutch ambassador’s residence and garden as part of “behind-the-scenes” encounters with Japanese culture.
“Coffee & Culture: Sumo”
Akira Nagai, who has experience as a sumo wrestler himself and serves as an advisor to the bipartisan Diet Members’ League for the Development of Sumo, cooperated in this event. In response to Madam Joan’s request, materials for learning about sumo in English were created; an actual wrestling exhibition was organized by Sirius Co., Ltd.
At the residence, items such as an authentic heavy silk kesho-mawashi (as well as a mini one for guests to try on), sumo wrestler’s yukata, and ranking list were displayed. Madam Joan’s sumo presentation in English started with the history of sumo, followed by “a day in the life of a sumo wrestler”, hairstyles, clothing, stable hierarchy, and ended with a chanko nabe tasting.
After learning all about sumo wrestling, the attendees went out to the garden and practiced “sumo warm-up exercises,” which incorporated movements such as lateral leg raises with thigh slapping and crouch-walking with coordinated hand movements.
Next, two former sumo wrestlers performed sumo wrestling training and a serious match. Everyone who participated was overwhelmed by this power.
After all, sumo wrestling cannot be fully understood unless you actually experience it. So, the Dutch ambassador to Japan, Peter van der Vliet, put on a padded “sumo suit”, donned a large ginkgo-style wig and crossed the line with former sumo wrestlers. It was very amusing, and the ambassador’s sense of humor shone through. Rather than explaining it in words, please take a look at the ambassador’s official Twitter account and the official Twitter account of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
After working up a sweat in this way, everyone enjoyed the sumo stable’s ‘chanko’. The chanko, which I ate for the first time, was very delicious, and seemed to permeate the entire body after having had fun exercising.
While there were many requests, such as wanting to eat chanko nabe again–reheating it for dinner, etc., in the end, the first Sumo event at the Dutch embassy was very successfully with everyone sweating and smiling together.