Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun by Rhoda Blumberg

Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun by Rhoda Blumberg

Author:Rhoda Blumberg
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
Tags: Non-fiction, Adventure, Biography, History
ISBN: 9780061971693
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 1985-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

Sumo wrestlers easily carry 150 pound rice bales.

courtesy of Asahi Shimbun and Kanagawa Prefecture Museum

The Americans were then escorted to the rear of the Treaty House to watch sumo wrestling matches. As the athletic giants tussled, the audience was served a meal of eggs, shrimps, lobsters, oysters, and a broth that Preble suspected was “a cup of raw fish or snake soup.” (Preble also thought that drinking saki was “detestable.” Nevertheless, “following the custom of the country,” the lieutenant pocketed leftovers.)4

The wrestling matches were fascinating. The athletes had servants who helped them dress and undress. The contenders paraded around a small circular arena that had been prepared for the sport. At a signal given by an elaborately gowned referee, two sumo wrestlers entered the ring, stretched their legs, stamped about, glared at each other, and scattered fists full of salt about the ring. Salt, a symbol of purity, was also rubbed on their bodies. Crouched like football linemen, with fists touching the ground, they suddenly slammed together, each trying to heave the other to the floor or out of the ring. They yelled and screeched when they fought, but as soon as a contestant won, both became quiet and courteous. The winner bowed to the loser and politely helped his downed opponent to his feet. Each contest took but a few minutes, and the sport ended when all athletes had wrestled.

After this Perry ordered a detachment of marines to put on an exhibition drill that would contrast with the “brutal performance” of “monsters” whose “animal natures had been carefully developed.”5 (One wonders how the Commodore would have described the bloody bare-knuckled boxing matches of one hundred or more rounds that were being staged in America at that time.)

Interpreter Williams wrote that it was quite a day. “A junction of East and West…epaulettes and uniforms, shaven pates and nightgowns, soldiers with muskets and drilling in close array, soldiers with petticoats, sandals, two swords…exhibiting the difference between our civilization and usages and those of this secluded, pagan people.”6


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