Farewell to Dolphins Arena, a Stage for Upsets and Historic Victories

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Nagoya's Grand Sumo Tournament

Nagoya's annual grand sumo tournament is upon us, and this year's event, starting July 14th, holds a special significance. It marks the final tournament held at the Aichi Prefectural Gym, known as Dolphins Arena, which has been the tournament's home since 1965. This signals the end of an era, as next year, the tournament will move to the newly constructed IG Arena nearby.

The Nagoya tournament has been a part of the grand sumo series since 1958. Back then, it was held at Kanayama Gym, a venue without air conditioning, earning it the nickname "South Seas Tournament." Blocks of ice were used in an attempt to combat the sweltering heat.

Nagoya in July is notoriously humid. The rainy season often lingers into the first half of the tournament, bringing heavy evening showers and further increasing the humidity. Maintaining peak physical condition under these circumstances is undeniably challenging.

While the scientific evidence on the climate's impact on performance is inconclusive, the tournament has historically seen a surprising number of champions emerge from the maegashira ranks. In the 65 years that Nagoya has hosted the tournament (excluding the 2020 relocation to Tokyo due to the pandemic), six maegashira-ranked wrestlers have claimed the Emperor's Cup, the highest number among all six annual tournaments.

The "stormy Spring Tournament" is often referenced due to its history of unexpected outcomes, but "stormy" might be even more fitting for the Nagoya Tournament.

Many of the maegashira championships in Nagoya have been historic, perhaps none more than Hawaiian Takamiyama's first victory in 1972. This marked a turning point in sumo history, being the first win by a foreign-born wrestler.

Nagoya has also witnessed the rise of wrestlers like Kongo, Kotofuji, Mitoizumi, and Ichinojo, who, despite not being tournament favorites, emerged from the maegashira ranks and stunned fans by claiming the title.

Conversely, some wrestlers have used their success in Nagoya as a springboard for promotion to yokozuna or ozeki, surpassing more established wrestlers. Legends like Kitanoumi and Chiyonofuji received the ceremonial messenger from the Japan Sumo Association informing them of their promotion to yokozuna while in Nagoya.

This year, as the old gym hosts its final tournament, one can't help but wonder what drama awaits. The anticipation for the first day is palpable.

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Round userpic of the post author Noir Black
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May 21, 2023 | 05:09