Our last few days in Japan were spent back in Tokyo, living it up in the Hyatt thanks to Phil’s hotel points. We were staying in the Shinjuku district, so we got to explore another side of the city. We were right next to the Metropolitan Government building, so took the opportunity for a freebie viewing point of the city, (it is worth the trip up but it is no Burj Khalifa). We also visited Yoyogi Park, the Meiji shrine and the Harajuku district – famed as the Japanese centre of youth fashion and worth a wander if you in the area to catch a glimpse of the famous Harajuku girls!
For Phil’s birthday I had got him tickets to the Sumo tournament. So we set off with hoards of other locals and tourists to the Ryogoku district of Tokyo and the Kokugikan Sumo stadium. Each sumo tournament runs for fifteen days and each day starts early in the morning and runs until 6pm. Top division matches start from 4pm each day, so we decided to arrive at 2pm to find our seats, get the refreshments in and embrace this weird and wonderful sport. As we arrived, crowds were waiting outside the stadium to see their favourite sumo wrestlers arrive and boy were those guys huge! Apparently there are no weight restrictions for sumo wrestlers, so to try to prevent them being matched with someone of a bigger size, they gain weight as part of their training. Although the majority of the wrestlers were Japanese, there were a couple of westerners in the mix too! If you are in Japan around a tournament definitely get tickets – although three hours in the stadium is probably enough. Each match lasts less then a minute, but there are so many pre-match rituals that each wrestling pair undergo before starting the match, that it takes about ten minutes before the short spurt of action occurs. As a handy tip I would avoid the front row ringside seats – we saw a fair few sumo wrestlers falling into the crowds!
Sadly our time in Japan had to come to an end at some point and it had all gone far to quickly. I had had such high expectations and Japan did not disappoint. From testing out the most advanced toilets in the world (heated seats, washing sprays and waterfall sound effects), to the strangely liberating naked bathing in the onsen (hot springs) and all the crazy Japanese culture and amazing scenery inbetween – The land of the rising sun is a truly amazing country and one of my favourite places in the world. If you haven’t been, book a flight, you will not be disappointed.