May, Volume 2

In this issue:

Writer Debut

Brief Interviews With Hideous JETs: A re-branding of GMA staple Aomori Spotlight, this interview series by Elaina Olmo offers a peek into the lives and interests of JETs around the prefecture. This month she introduces us to Aomori City’s enigmatic musician, Charlie Abbot.

Special Feature

Testing vs. Communication: An excerpt from the 2018 Rough Guide to Aomori. Using material from interviews with Sasha Crowley, Samantha Martin, Tiffany Barnes, Maria Reyes, Jackson Hale, and Alex Koury, I’ve tried to outline the impact of testing on English language teaching in Aomori schools and what it means for ALTs.


CLICK HERE!: There was something of a misunderstanding. I asked Sleve to help out with the changeover of Aomori Spotlight, but it seems he confused the column with a JET’s industrial lighting business…

Extended Play: Nick takes a look at the eccentric Wednesday Campanella (水曜日のカンパネラ), a group that mixes rap, electronic music, and experimental pop.

English is Weird: Use Lauren’s handcrafted mnemonics and you’ll never spell these words wrong again!

BALLS: The recent abdication of the ruling party in Malaysia is fraught with political intrigue. Join Victor as he takes us through the twists and turns of last week’s election.

Aomori Snap: Tyler steps outside his comfort zone to discuss the photography of people, a genre he usually avoids.

Help Wanted:

Shufu Tips: Retired writer: Amanda Addey-Jibb.
Column description: Helpful information on the upkeep of your home in Japan.

Japantics: Thanks to Natalie for all her hard work on the Japantics column. You can read her final article from April, Volume 2 here. Now looking  for a new writer!
Column description: Anecdotes and experiences drawn from your life in Japan.

Aomori Snap: Retiring writer: Tyler Huntley (Last article June-ish).
Column description: Photography tips and techniques.

(Insert your title here) – If you have an idea for a column, I’d love to hear it! Start whenever! Email me now!

GMA was made to be a creative outlet for all Aomori JETs—that includes you. Whether it’s a column idea, a one-shot article, photography, art, a comic, anything at all you’ve created, it has a place on this site. Send it to me, ask questions, or make comments by emailing

Letter From the Editor

Mid-May. Two massive men glare across the ring, eyes flashing, each hoping his apparent power will cow the other. Salt scattered, fists flat to the ground, they crash together like wild bulls, an earth-shaking impact carrying the weight of both their huge bodies and hundreds of years of tradition.

Sumo. Yes, we’re in the thick of it now: the Natsu Basho (夏場所), or Summer Tournament, began on the 13th and will continue until the 27th. This is the third of six honbasho (本場所) this year. Honbasho, or “real tournaments,” are the only events that affect the promotion and relegation of professional sumo wrestlers—there are other tournaments throughout the year, called simply basho (場所), which do not affect the rankings but may award prize money.

If you’re like me, then you think sumo is pretty neat but know little about it. I suggest we take advantage of the timing and dip our toes into this ancient sport.

Where to Watch

NHK: Live in Japan? Just plug in your TV and tune in to the live coverage. Here’s the broadcast schedule (Japanese language).

App: The Grand Sumo app (大相撲) is perhaps the simplest way to watch. This is the official app of the Japan Sumo Association (日本相撲協会). The app is free, but you may want to upgrade to the premium paid version. With the free version you can only watch one of the most recent matches per day, while the paid version gives you unlimited viewing privileges for both recent and past matches. Both English and Japanese are supported—the app will display in whatever language you’ve chosen in your device’s  settings. Available in the Google Play store and iTunes.

Youtube: Jason’s All-Sumo channel is one of the biggest sumo channels on Youtube. Jason lives in Japan and records matches from his TV. He doesn’t record every match, but he gets a few for each day of the honbasho.

The Finer Points

If you’re new to sumo, you may want to bone up on the details of the sport before diving in.

NHK World has a great English-language resource for everything sumo, including the basics, a more detailed Q&A-style description of the sport, an index of wrestlers and techniques, and an all-encompassing video series: the Sumopedia.

You could spend hours poring through NHK World’s site, but if you prefer a quick overview check out my guide below. I pulled this information from NHK World, Wikipedia, and “Sumo a Pocket Guide” by David Shapiro.

Sumo Basics

Sumo bouts are held in a circular ring 4.55 m (14.93 ft) in diameter. A loss occurs when a wrestler is pushed out of the ring or touches the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet.

There are no weight classes, but professional sumo wrestlers must be at least 167 centimeters tall (5’5.5″) and weigh at least 67 kilograms (147 lbs). Most are much larger than this minimum, of course. The heaviest sumo wrestler in the top division is currently Ichinojo at 225 kg (496 lbs), while the tallest is Kaisei at 195 cm (6’5″).

After their names are called and the sumo wrestlers enter the ring, the preparation period begins. This is the part that always bewildered me, so I’ve gone into a bit of detail. There are a few components to this period:

  • Chikara mizu (力水): Each wrestler receives a ladle of water from another wrestler. Only undefeated wrestlers may offer these ladles, so these are given by the winner of the bout previous and one of the wrestlers who will participate in the bout following. The water is drunk in order to purify the wrestlers’ bodies.
  • Before beginning the bout, sumo wrestlers throw salt over the ring to purify it.
  • Shikiri (仕切り): The stare down. The wrestlers squat facing each other in the middle of the ring, staring each other in the eye.This is an important element of psychological warfare in a sumo match. In matches at the top level, shikiri may continue for four minutes before the bout begins. During this time the wrestlers may stand, squat, stare, and throw salt a number of times. They do not have to use the full allotment of time, and they may begin the initial charge, or tachiai (立合い), whenever both wrestlers are ready, placing their fists on the ground.When the four minutes are up, the referee holds a fan flat against his forearm, indicating that the match must begin. However, this is not a signal to charge immediately, and in fact there is no such signal at all. Instead, the wrestlers “naturally and spontaneously” synchronize the charge.

More details can be found in NHK World’s Sumo Q&A section, but you should be off to a good start. Enjoy the tournament!

Joshua Dolphin
Head editor

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