Monday, June 15, 2009

Sumo Alarm Clock

During my final year of college, my older brother and I hatched a plan to teach English in Japan. It was all the rage in those days, and so we ran off, abeit circuitously, to Tokyo. (More about the circuitous part in a later post.)

After a year and a half in Tokyo, I really needed to get away from all the crowds but wanted to stay in Japan, and so I found a job teaching English at a very small school in Kushiro, on the northern island of Hokkaido. And that's where the sumo alarm clock comes into play: he was a departing gift from a student of that small school.

He is modeled on a real sumo rikshi (RICK-shee), Wakanohana, who along with his brother Takanohana, was very popular at the time. He has woken me every morning for more than 10 years, and last night when I dropped him on his topknot, I knew it wasn't good for him. The topknot isn't just cute, it's the activation device for the alarm, and it was stuck in the "off" (down) position. I wiggled it, pushed down gently on it, and then on a whim and starting to panic, I gave it a sharp whack.

Imagine my relief when it popped up into the "on" position and the alarm statred to sound, healthy and strong as ever.

About the sound of the alarm. It's in the pattern and rhythm of the play-by-play chant of the referee during a wrestling bout, but instead of saying whatever they say for that, it says, roughly, this:

Here's the charge, wake up, wake up-wake up, wake up, wake up-wake up, looks like it's over, it's over.

Naturally, it says all of this in Japanese. Here's a video of a bunch of bouts where you can hear the ref fairly clearly.

I know what most of you are thinking: "Ooh, gross, big fat men in diapers!" That's why Thursday's post will be all about how cool sumo is.

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