Young sumo wrestlers photographed at a festival

From a personal point of view, sumo has quickly gone from a sport that I followed enthusiastically, to one that sadly I now pay very little attention to. The treatment and forced resignation of an admittedly controversial but at the same time colourful Grand Champion, and then the far more worrying revelations of match-fixing, have arguably made it a sport in the very loosest sense of the word, as well as one mired in small-mindedness and criminality.

Rather harsh criticism perhaps, but along with the aforementioned issues, and a complete lack of Japanese winners (let alone Yokozuna) for many years, has caused local fans to also turn their back on the sport, with ticket sales down and interest at an all-time low.

Yet despite this, and in 2007 the Japan Sumo Association suffering — for the first time in its history — a total lack of applicants from would-be Japanese wrestlers, there is still hope. Yes, it’ll never be able to compete with baseball and soccer in the coming years, but some youngsters are still interested, and if the passion and commitment of the kids pictured below is anything to go by, then sumo is very much alive and kicking.

Trainee sumo wrestlers

Getting ready for their turn in the ring, the young lads in question waited patiently in order.

Trainee sumo wrestlers

And although there may have been some nerves, there was also an awful lot of fun to be had while watching the other bouts.

Trainee sumo wrestlers

But, when it came down to business, there was no more silliness — none whatsoever.

Trainee sumo wrestlers

Instead they fought hard.

Trainee sumo wrestlers

And fair.

Trainee sumo wrestlers

Until there was a fall.

Trainee sumo wrestlers

Making it an event that was competitive, fun and controversy free, as well as a spectacle for all the right reasons. Something those running the sport could do with recapturing – quickly.

Kakigori to cool down

For those too young to enjoy the comforting properties of an ice cold beer on a hot summer’s day, kakigori (shaved ice) would appear to be the next best thing. And for this young fella, it looks like strawberry is the syrup of choice for the season.

kakigori (shaved ice)

Sinister Japanese scarecrows — 2011 style

With fashion and particularly appearance being very important in Japan, it’s perhaps not surprising that the nation’s scarecrows are similarly style conscious. So, for 2011, there are some new characters as well as clothes.

Japanese scarecrow

Along with a fresh coiffure.

Japanese scarecrow

And even a little coyness.

Japanese scarecrow

But, for those that crave continuity, there’s still the unequivocal evil of one of last year’s creations.

Japanese scarecrow

Tokyo Times now back to normal

After about six weeks of not so regular updates as I soaked up the rain in not so sunny Manchester, Tokyo Times will now return to normal. My arrival back in Japan meaning that the relaxed and summery two posts a week will now revert to the more customary four or five.

News that admittedly doesn’t warrant being blasted from the rooftops. Or even trumpeted round town. But it may, at a push, merit a brief parp in the park.

Japanese trumpeters

If only supermarkets were so serene

Admittedly the selection may not be quite the same as a supermarket, but the freshness is far superior. And if it was possible to transfer even a fraction of the serenity of this west Tokyo ‘store’ to its more modern counterparts, then shopping would almost be pleasant.

Tokyo roadside shop