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SUMO ABC (55) /Beating the muggy heat during the Nagoya tournament

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Sumo wrestlers arrive at JR Nagoya Station on June 25.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterI’ve been visiting Nagoya for more than 20 years to cover the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament. The heat we experience in the midst of the basho, which used to be called Nanyo Tournament, is akin to being in a tropical hothouse.

In particular, the muggy heat at the sumo wrestlers’ training grounds during the rainy season hits a kind of zenith, wilting the sumo journalists reporting on the practice sessions. Rikishi, who fight for 15 days amid the heat and humidity, carefully regulate their physical conditions.

The first day of the Nagoya tournament started Sunday at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya Castle’s Ninomaru area. One of The Yomiuri Shimbun’s sumo writers usually arrives in Nagoya before the announcement of the tournament’s banzuke ranking. This year, Yosuke Matsuda, in his 17th year at the company, has been covering training there since June 25. Asked about how he was doing, Matsuda replied: “The training grounds are very humid, making it extremely unpleasant. I’m always drowning in sweat after reporting and have to change my clothes.”

When it comes to rikishi, Matsuda said, “[Yokozuna] Kisenosato turns on the air conditioner for a short time only before he goes to sleep at night. He said he doesn’t like the air from the air conditioner.”

As for yokozuna Hakuho — who is within reach of Kaio’s all-time record of 1,047 wins — Matsuda said, “He said he tries not to drink anything cold.”

On the other hand, Matsuda’s cold beer consumption at night swells right along with his waistline.

It has been said that the rainy season ends on the eighth day of the Nagoya tournament. This has proven to be the case based on my decades-long experience, but I’ve recently felt the end seems to have come a bit later than usual. The scorching heat and drenching evening showers have continued to hit Japan even after the end of the rainy season. Shiyakushomae Station on Nagoya’s subway line is a convenient stop to the gymnasium, but a five-minute walk to the venue’s entrance used to see me drenched in sweat.

The heat cruelly saps my will to work hard. To get that fire back, I must watch the heated fights and exciting matches of the rikishi. When I finish writing an article, I rush to the Nagoya comfort food of grilled unagi eel, deep-fried chicken wings and udon noodles simmered with thick miso soup — along with glasses of ice-cold beer. It goes without saying that Nagoya’s soul food becomes a great motivation for me to work hard the next day.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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