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Sumo-themed Birthday Party!

30 May

I have an AMAZING birthday party to share with you today! One of my readers, Karen, shared some details and photos from her son’s SUMO-themed birthday party with me. Karen is a Nikkei Sansei with 3 kids, who are almost 6; 3 years old; and 10 months, respectively.

My kids would have loved to be guests at this party. Here’s the sumo party details in Karen’s own words:

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the birthday boy enjoying his pizza 🙂

Our son, Will, just turned 3 years old on May 9th. He is an avid sumo (and sports) fanatic. We asked him a few months ago about what kind of birthday party he would like, thinking he would pick a football or baseball or basketball party. He did go back and forth for a couple days, but then one day, he said in his determined fashion, “I want a SUMO party.” And that stuck.

are her kids cute or what?

Last summer, we started subscribing to Japanese TV through our cable service. We watch a lot of the kids’ shows (Okaasan to Issho, Pitagora Switch, etc.), but in July when the Nagoya Bassho started, Will fell in love with the sport. Maybe it is that the sport is pretty straightforward (for a then 2 year old) — the wrestler who doesn’t get  pushed out of the dojo or who doesn’t fall to the ground is the winner. Maybe it is the gyouji’s calling the action — “Haiya haiya haiya!”  my son yells in imitation as he stands transfixed by the match or as he leaps around his “pretend dojo” in our shower. Maybe it is the larger than life sumo rikishi, as Will quickly identified his favorites (Hakuho, Baruto, Harumafuji).

“Pin the Mawashi on the Sumo Rikishi”

After we decided on the sumo party theme, my husband found a lot of sumo-related gift bag items:  sumo rubber ducks, sumo trading cards from Japan and Sumo party games. These included cut-outs of a sumo wrestler and geisha for the kids to take pictures with and a wind up sumo game.   A friend in Tokyo went to Ryogoku Kaikan and picked up some tegata by his favorite wrestlers, Hakuho and Baruto. We came up with a variation of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”: “Pin the Mawashi on the Sumo Rikishi” and then sewed a felt sumo wrestler with Emperor’s Cup, mawashi, yokozuna belt, and ceremonial garb modeled on Baruto’s.  We made some posters of information on sumo and photos so parents could learn something about the history and traditions and fun facts about the sport. A sumo cake by a local bakeshop was a tasty treat.

sumo cake!

love this cake!

On May 12, after weeks of continuous rain, we finally got a gorgeous, sun-drenched, spring day for the party. The Natsu Bassho, fortuitously, was running in Tokyo.  We set up the felt sumo wrestler outside and the sushi and pizza and cake inside.

no Japanese party is complete without sushi 🙂

As the party came to a close, we watched matches from the Natsu Bassho downstairs with the remaining guests. Will jumped up and down on the couch and yelled, “That’s Harumafuji, Harumafuji, Harumafuji!” Or “That’s Baruto!” “He’s an ozeki!” “Hakuho is the yokozuna!”

Karen’s husband ordered these photo props, and they were a huge hit!

I first came to love watching sumo with my homestay grandma back in Nagoya 20 years ago, but I have to say it is pretty cool to enjoy it with your own kids and family. I hope Will continues to enjoy sumo in the years to come! In the meantime, I love finding him flipping nightly through the pages of his favorite wrestlers printed out from the banzuke of the Japan Sumo Association and asking all about them.

They did an art project with the sumo wrestler hand prints in which the children dipped their hand into poster paint and overlaid it onto the sumo wrestler’s handprint. Cute!

They made posters about sumo info and hung them around the house and on the outside of the house so guests could learn about the sport.

“Pin the Mawashi on the Sumo Wrestler”– I LOVE this so much! Karen is certainly very artistically talented.

Much more fun and interesting than “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”

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Karen, thank you so much for sharing these ideas and pictures with us! I love my talented readers! I am feeling really inspired to watch some sumo with my children now.

If any of you have questions about this party, you can email Karen at {kmaruyam@umich.edu}.

Have you ever thrown a Japanese-themed birthday party?

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