Sumo in San Francisco

Sunday was a pretty epic day for Asian culture in San Francisco. Not only was it free day at the Asian Art Museum (which, according to their Instagram bio is “the largest museum in the western world devoted to Asian art”), but it was also the 2014 Sumo Wrestling Festival & Expo in Japantown. The Asian Art Museum was full of gorgeous exhibits, beautiful architecture, and—since it was Filipino Day (holla!)—lots of active programming and performances. Here’s a few shots to give you a taste:

After the programming wrapped up, we headed to Japantown to catch the last of the sumo demonstrations. We met four Sumo wrestlers:

Yama, 6’4″, 600 lbs, Heaviest Japanese human being ever
Byamba, 6’1″, 370 lbs, Mongolian, three-time World Sumo Champion
Batar (for whom I don’t have stats)
Kelly, 6’0″, 430 lbs, American, three-time US Sumo Champion and Guinness World Record holder as the heaviest human ever to run a marathon (he completed in the Los Angeles Marathon in 2008 and 2011)

It was awesome to see an American in the ring—especially one from Idaho Falls. We chatted with Kelly after the demo and I asked him how he’d gotten into sumo. He said he had started in wrestling, but after high school, put on too much weight to wrestle in any of the weight classes. He tried losing weight, but after that failed, turned to sumo because it allowed him to continue to wrestle without having to comply with a weight class. Now, he said, he’s excited to be sharing the sport as a cultural experience with a wider audience here in the States.

Here’s a few videos of the demonstrations:

After the demos, they pulled kids from the audience and had them “match up” against the wrestler of their choice. Absolute hilarity ensued as the five, six, and seven-years olds attempted to push, shove, and slam their opponents out of the ring.

The whole thing was pretty incredible, and best of all, it was completely FREE! What a great way to get the public excited and talking about sumo—which is certainly what we did after the event over a plate of piping hot tonkatsu and a Kirin beer.

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