Mixed Plate goes to Japan for Bull Sumo
Bull fighting is among the popular sports in Japan's Yamakoshi Prefecture, but if you're expecting matadors, swords and blood, you're in the wrong country.
It is Sunday afternoon and blazing hot. The 300 or so spectators in the bull ring are prepared to meet the heat with fans, coolers, and a minimum of movement. Below, there is much machismo posturing in the ring, but not by the humans. All the swaggering is done by the four-legged dudes, the yokozuna of Yamakoshi. Yes, they are called yokuzuna, in the sumo tradition, because these bulls, each weighing more than a ton... are champions.
Bullfighting here is exactly that: bulls fighting each other, a spectator sport here since the 17th century. Every spring the bulls instinctively go at each other to compete for females. So farmers provided a safe environment in which to work out their differences.
Blunted horns locked, eyes wild, legs and lungs strain to push 2000 pounds across the sand. And suddenly, it's over. The animals are pulled apart, the loser sulks away. The winner..and make no mistake he knows he's the winner..takes a victory lap. And to prove he's also a family pet, his trainer's son holds the reins. Both bulls live to fight another day.
The loser is not always gracious. Testosterone raging, some vent their frustration, and this is where the wrangler shows his skill. He must chase, intercept, and stick his fingers up the bull's nose.
Somehow this indignity shocks the animal into calmness. The crowd applauds a deftly-applied nostril pull.
" Bull sumo has been a part of our culture for centuries," says Masashi Seki, proud City Councilman for Yamakoshi Prefecture." We do not kill the bulls. In a fight between an animal and a man with weapons, man will always win."
These bulls can now look forward to a cool shower, some warm oatmeal and a deep-tissue massage, as deserving of any magnificent animal.