Felines among the flab.
When they’re not in the ring slapping, shoving, and grappling with rivals as part of a tournament, sumo wrestlers spend their day in what’s called a heya. Literally meaning “room,” but more commonly translated into English as “stable,” the heya is more than just a gym. In addition to areas for the intense physical training sumo requires, the stable houses living quarters for its members, who eat, sleep, and live a regimented, tradition-bound lifestyle within its walls.
However, it’s not all stern-faced combat sport preparation at Arashiyo, a stable located in central Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district.
In addition to its aspiring sumo stars, Arashiyo is also home to two cute kitties. The older of the pair, Moru, is a friendly 12-year-old adopted stray who likes going for strolls in the neighborhood.
In recent years, a number of Mongolian-born sumo wrestlers have risen to fame in Japan, and Moru’s name comes from the corrupted Japanese pronunciation of muur, the Mongolian word for “cat.”
The second feline resident of Arahiyo is eight-year-old Mugi, who has a sadder backstory.
▼ Don’t worry, though, because Mugi looks to be doing just fine now.
Mugi was once someone’s pet, but was found abandoned in the parking lot in front of Arashiyo. Thankfully, the wrestlers took the poor thing in, although the incident does seem to have made Mugi shy enough that she keeps to the athletes’ living quarters on the third floor.
This bit of fluffy cuteness in what’s otherwise a spartan environment has captivated both animal lovers and sports fans in Japan, so much so that Moru and Mugi are the stars of a new photo collection, The Happy Cats of the Sumo Stable (Sumobeya no Shiawase na Nekotachi in Japanese), which just went on sale this month. It’s currently available here on Amazon Japan, priced at 1,200 yen (US$11.70).
Arashiyo also allows visitors to observe its morning practices, although the cats, not being competitors themselves, aren’t present at the sessions. Details can be found, in English, here.
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