Maja Sumo Competition
Every year there are a series of Okinawan Sumo competitions on Kume Island. These events are a unique look into Okinawan culture. The Maja Sumo Competition is the first of the year and takes place in early July. In 2012 it was on July 4th.
This competition takes place at the Tenkou Shrine (tenkougu). Competitions like these, as with most festival activities were a traditional offering to the spirit/kami/god enshrined, and/or to the ancestors of the village. Essentially it is a way to both thank and ask for a good year.
Maja Sumo starts at 2:00 with students from Misaki Elementary School competing as part of their regular school schedule. Once the initial competitions are over, tournaments begin where those who want to compete can challenge opponents until there is a winner.
There are several types of tournament used for Sumo, but at Maja they use a simple ladder system. The competitions go in category from youngest to oldest, Elementary (sometimes this is broken into younger and older), Jr. High, and High School.
After the children are finished, the adult competition begins with both local and visiting competitors. Athletes from throughout Okinawa and beyond attend sumo competitions in the hopes of winning great prizes and representing their islands, or towns.
In addition to trophies and certificates, prizes can include cases of beer, food, household items, and even bikes. Many people come to watch and enjoy the competition, and share time with friends.
At the entrance, it is custom to make a donation (usually of at least 1,000yen) to support the competition and shrine. Normally, you place the money into an envelope (they'll take it out and count it for recording purposes) and hand you a bag of snacks and drinks.
A road next to Tenkougu, where Maja Sumo takes place.
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