Yesterday, everyone was totally relaxed, since the "basho" was over. We left the hotel at 9 am for the Dead Sea, a ride that usually takes about two and a half hours. The rikishi, who, as mentioned, were on an incredibly tight schedule, asked for some time to go shopping, so we stopped in Beer Sheva for an hour of shopping at the mall. We finally arrived at around 13:00, to the sight of at least 20 TV crews from all over the world- for this was the big story of the visit-will they float or not???Day 4-Pictures
First, they hit the pool, and were like kids in an amusement park, throwing each other around and stuff (video will follow). Moto-Yokozuna Kotozakura jumped into the pool and swam for a long while as well. Then,the big event- led by the Israeli Ambassador to Japan Eli Cohen (this whole trip was his brain-child)- they entered the Dead Sea. And- yes..they floated, all of them. Oyakata struck the customary "I'm holding a newspaper with both hands while floating on my back" pose. Then, some mud treatment. The media went wild.
After that, a short shopping spree at the "Ahava" mineral cosmetics outlet, and a long three hour drive for the farewell dinner, where presents were exchanged.
This morning, the goodbyes at the airport. It was quite nice to be able to chat with moto-Yokozuna Kotozakura for quite a while, as the others were busy with the check-in routine. We bid our farewells, and went our respective ways.
It was fun.
Well, tonight was why life is so great. All those hours spent by the computer translating, reading, watching and learning culminated into what is surely the best day of my life, and I've been around for quite a while..Day 3
The Caesaria amphitheater was manin-sold out-packed. 4000+ people. Unbelievable. Sumo is non-existent here-only a handful of followers. Yet, the intensive PR brought the people. I can't even tell you that I felt as if I was in a dream, since I never dared to dream that such a day will ever come. I got to do the explanations, the dohyo-iri (in Hebrew..)and I was delighted to see that some of my ideas were implemented after all (matta,niramiai, monoii..). The tomoesen (playoff) was between the three sekitori. Then, we were treated to a very long tomoesen with incredible bouts.The crowd was totally beside itself, as the announcer and I egged them all on. Suddenly, I just blurted out that former Yokozuna Kotozakura was with us. The crowd burst out with some loud applause, to which the ex-Oyakata responded by standing up from his wheelchair and waving. The whole scene was surreal and quite moving. Here were at least 3980 people who had no idea who he was, yet could feel he was someone special in Sumo..
In the end, Kotooushuu won. Then, I was called on to the dohyo to do the yusho interview!! I don't remember much, except Kotooushuu's smiling face.
The show ended at 23:00. Good night? Not in Israel. We all went to a restaurant, and I got back a few minutes ago, i.e around 2:30 am. The guys were in a great mood, as the Serious Sumo was now behind them, and some heavy eating and drinking ensued.
In 6 hours, we leave for the Dead Sea, then a farewell dinner party, then the airport at 4:30 am Friday.
The adrenaline is pumping like mad. I'll post some pictures, but probably not before Friday.
The only thing I regret is that you all couldn't be there.
Today started bright and early with a trip to Jerusalem where they visited the Israeli President. They surprised everyone when Kotomitsuki and Kotoshougiku had an apparently lively bout which ended with Kotomitsuki throwing Kotoshougiku down on the hard floor. I wasn't there though, since I needed the morning to recuperate...Day 2
2:45 pm-35 C in the shade, humidity 70%, the guys hit the beach where they had some sessions with kids, throwing them around and stuff. Loads of pictures and a cool Kotooushuu video will follow. The rikishi, who are on a tight schedule, finally got some free time. They hit the water and stayed there for about half an hour, picking up kids and throwing them into the water on the way. Tug of war with about 20 kids, where the rope snapped, sending everyone to the sand. Video exists and will be uploaded tomorrow.
In the evening, a reception at the Japanese Ambassador's residence. Great food-the guys finaly ate some food they actually know.
Tomorrow is the big day, with the main event.
I will be filling you in on exactly what happened. I have the torikumi in hand-it will be a 12 man knockout tournament- 6, then a three- way tomoesen.
PS-The most sought -after people for photos:
2. Kotokanyuu's two baby sons, 2 years old and one year old.
3. Sadogatake Oyakata
Sorry for lagging with the stories, but things are really hectic here, tight schedules and little sleep. Yesterday, we went to Jerusalem-the whole Wailing Wall, Via Dolorosa, Christian holy sites, Mount Scopus routine. Everywhere they go, traffic stops. People just stare, and then rush up to them with their cell phones to get their pictures taken with them. Seeing Kotooushuu, Kotomitsuki and the lads wearing a yarmulka and sticking notes in the wall was a sight to behold...
Every one of the rikishi,(that's everyone...) is more than obliging and patiently gets photographed. It was very unnaturally hot in Jerusalem yesterday, where it's usually around a cool 22 degrees C at this time of the year. It was 32 yesterday.. but everyone braved the heat and did a lot of walking.Day 1
In the afternoon, I went with Kotomitsuki, Kotomisen and Kotoyutaka to the TV studios for a live interview on "Yatzpan", a Jay Leno/Letterman clone, who is very popular here. He is famous for being cynical and sarcastic and for making fun of his interview-ees (is that a word??). I had a great chance to chat with them, especially Kotomitsuki, while waiting for our turn.
The interview started with Yatzpan cracking some "fatman' jokes, but they were quite tame. Then, Kotomisen and Kotoyutaka proceeded to show some keiko moves, in their mawashi, the first time a "real" mawashi was seen in Israel. I asked them to do the moves in a particular order, culminating, of course, with the ultimate show-stopper, matawari. The shiko was awesome. Yatzpan suddenly had a look of wonder on his face. Shikiri, Suri-ashi, and then matawari. At this point, the crowd went wild. From this point on, Yatzpan's tone of voice completely changed to one of awe and amazement, and he couldn't stop smiling till the end of the interview, and of course, no more "fatman" jokes.. Then he called everyone watching to come to the show and not miss this "amazing opportunity".All in all, Yatzpan did a great interview and was very polite.
Afterwards, the guys were hungry, so we went to a really "in" restaurant bar where all the models and celebs hang out. When we arrived, no less than 4 different TV station crews were waiting,. Hey!! This is Sumo!! In Israel?? In two short days, the rikishi managed to cause quite an interest here. We ate some strange stuff, and the tired guys went home to sleep for a few hours- early wake up call- meeting with the President (going on as I type) in Jerusalem, from which I excused myself.
In a few hours, there will be a training session on the beach with kids, a tug-of -war, (rikishi against 40 kids), and general mayhem. I will be there and hope to get a few pictures.
Day 1- Hot, very hot. And humid. 10 am-producers' meeting and friendly chat with the heya's administrators.Prologue
General mingling in the lobby of the Hilton, a lot of people coming up and taking pictures.
Noon-Press conference with the Minister of Tourism. He asks me what to say in Japanese at the end of the conference. Guess what I suggested.. (Ganbare, Sadogatake Beya..) which was received very well by the Japanese press. On the whole, a surprising number of reporters were there, and it went on longer than scheduled, with Kotooushuu giving the minister a yukata (Kotooushuu size..). The Minister was swamped by it and nearly disappeared in its folds.
Then, suddenly-a power failure. We haven't had that in a long time-it was very hot, everyone turned on their air conditioners, and something gave-all Tel-Aviv was without power for a while. Imagine the rikishi, 30 degrees C and 60% humidity AND no air-con...
Then, food. We went to a famous Israeli restaurant, where local food (hummus and mountains of meat..) were served. Everyone ate everything, and another power failure didn't ruin everyone's good spirits. Kotoyutaka and Kotootori are the resident jesters, and they were doing all sorts of stuff, most of them of the "you had to be there" genre. Kotooushuu proceeded to enter the bar area and posed for pictures. He is in a fantastic mood, his parents being here and all.
After that, they were supposed to take a tour of Tel-Aviv, but they asked to go shopping, so we went to a mall. The mall, of course, went crazy at the site of these guys, and pictures, pictures, pictures.
In the evening, the Ministry of Tourism held a dinner for them at the hotel, on a balcony overlooking the beach. The whole heya was spotted gawking at the incredible sunset.
Big meeting over the dohyo-building-not much time for them to build it and worried faces can be seen.
This morning at 6 am, I left home for a TV interview on the morning news. In three hours we'll be leaving for Jerusalem. At 5, a special taxi will take Kotomitsuki, Kotomisen and a yet undecided rikishi with me to a very popular live TV show, where the rikishi will show some moves while Yatzpan, who is the show host, will probably attempt to make fun of Kotomitsuki and Sumo, and I will probably jump all over him and be forcibly removed from the premises by some bouncer.
They arrived. 13 rikishi and others, all together about 40 people. I got to meet them at the plane's door. The 19 hour flight did nothing to their easy-going and friendly demeanor. Led by Sadogatake Oyakata with his new hairstyle (kept it pretty long..), one by one they disembarked. Kotooushuu was first off, Kotomitsuki behind him, and Kotoshougiku, then the lower rankers. Ex-Kotozakura was last. After the long flight, they patiently stood and had their pictures taken for at least 15 minutes. I managed to chat with Ex-Kotozakura about the weather. I told Kotooushuu that we call him Osh. He actually smiled (his parents are arriving within the hour..).. I told Kotomitsuki we were going to be interviewed together on TV on Monday on a talk show . I spoke to Makushita (most years in Sumo) Kotokanyuu-he came with his wife and two small kids. Kotoshougiku was simply surprised that a native knew who he was. I had a leisurely hour to walk and talk with them and take pictures, which I hope to post tomorrow.
I am having difficulty describing how much fun I had.
And this is going to last for five days..