[FOUNTAIN]A Mongolian feast

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[FOUNTAIN]A Mongolian feast

The world of sumo, Japanese-style wrestling, is a pyramid-shaped society. The highest rank in sumo wrestling is yokozuna. The font size of the entries in the ranking chart published by the Japanese Sumo Association reflects actual ranks, and the name of a lower ranking wrestler is written in such tiny characters that it is hard to read.
Sumo tournaments are held six times a year, with 15 matches each. The key is to score more wins than losses. Becoming a yokozuna is a difficult path. A wrestler must win two consecutive championships or display an equivalent performance. Only 68 sumo wrestlers have ever qualified to become yokozuna.
Let’s look at a day in a training stable. Newcomers need to get up at 4 a.m. and clean the stable. When the morning training begins at 7 a.m., more chores await them. They need to prepare baths, cook a stew dish, and help higher wrestlers bathe. It is a society ruled by rank. The culture has not changed since the feudalistic Edo period, the heyday of sumo wrestling.
The 60-centimeter-high (24-inch) sumo ring, called a dohyo, is 4.55 meters in diameter. The ring contains the essence of the Japanese spirit. Upon entering the dohyo, wrestlers lift their legs one after another and stomp as hard as they can to drive the demons underground.
Then they clean their mouth with water, a ritual to cleanse the body. They also throw some salt around the ring to purify the dohyo.
It has become a rare event that a native Japanese wrester wins a match. These days, the dohyo is dominated by wrestlers from Mongolia.
In the summer tournament that ended on May 20, Ozeki Hakuho from Mongolia scored his first victory.
Many say that it is only a matter of time until Hakuho becomes a yokozuna. Last year, the active yokozuna Asashoryu Akinori, also from Mongolia, set a record of seven consecutive tournament victories. He is also the first to win all six sumo tournaments held in a year. He is 184 centimeters tall (6 feet) and weighs 148 kilograms (326 pounds), an average frame for a top wrestler. Konishiki, Akebono and Musashimaru, the three Hawaiian wrestlers who prevailed in the late 90s, all weighed more than 220 kilograms.
Asashoryu, who is 26 this year, has just begun to produce records.
In the 13th century, kamikaze, or a divine wind, saved Japan from the invading Mongolian fleet, which was wrecked by a legendary typhoon. Now the descendants of Genghis Khan are sweeping the Japanese national sport.


by Oh Young-hwan

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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