Wavelength / Walk

It's sumo season again, or it was, recently. I know it's February but I'm just now getting around to watching the January matchups, the same way that I'm replying to emails like 2 weeks later, shaving my face every day at like 3pm for some reason, and so on. The last time I checked in on sumo was in August but I couldn't stand to watch it-- it was too sad to see no one sitting in the stands, and to hear these thunderous stomps echoing off the bleachers. Now there's people there watching it, though not as many as in previous years, obviously, and everyone's masked and spread pretty far apart. The only sad part about the audience really is that there's a lot of gray hair in the crowd and everyone's sitting there calmly with the mask on and I keep thinking I'm seeing Bernie chair memes. And the sad part isn't like "I hate the meme" or whatever but like, it feels like a ghostly afterimage from the rare timeline where the DNC allowed Bernie the nomination (2016 or 2020). Hey, I don't know what would've happened, and I don't want to get swept up in a cult of personality, but did you ever get to a turning point and just not turn? It leaves you with a spooky feeling.

The other sad thing (sorry I said before that there was only 1 sad thing) is that when you watch the replays, you don't get the whole majestic rigamarole of professional sumo, you only get highlights. It's all the action of the whole day condensed to 27 minutes, with none of the walking out, looking around, throwing salt, etc.. The commentator is good, and helps you along, but getting just the bouts... it's all a little too "wham bam". Each match-up is sometimes just 4 or 5 seconds, and when you stack them up without the pageantry it can be dizzying. It's like "Oh it's these two guys, ok I like the guy in lavender. Ok it's starting, Oh no! Well, better luck next time lavender guy, good job other guy. Ok new match, I like the big guy in this one. There they go" and so on. I mean it's still fun to watch, and sometimes I prefer just a serious stack of blasts. But sumo is a deep and revered tradition-- I want to marinate in the vibe a little, you know?? I want to smell the hair oil.

Anyway after watching a few matches in a row I pause and drift into other things-- yesterday I paused just to look up another sumo vid I liked, one that's 99.999% build-up, it's called "Original Clapper Video".

Original Clapper Video

Original Clapper Video is 53 seconds long and it's just a short interview with a yobidashi, that's the guy in a sumo tournament who announces the wrestlers in a beautiful voice and makes the "wood clacking" sound. In the video he talks about the great lengths he goes through to make the clackers themselves, and about the precision involved in striking them. You really get the feeling he could talk all day about this! Finally he does it, he hits them together, and it's sick.

First of all, great sound. But also-- not only is he the guy who clacks the clackers together but he's tasked with making them too??? That seemed kind of unusual until I looked up "yobidashi" on Wikipedia:

The outfit worn by the yobidashi is loosely based on an old style Japanese workman's outfit, with leggings and split-toed tabi-like boots.

In keeping with their workman outfits, the yobidashi are actually the Japan Sumo Association's handymen, or odd-job men, and have a wide variety of tasks. These include on match days: sweeping the ring, providing purification salt, displaying banners showing that a match has been decided by default, declared a draw, or subject to a rematch after the next two bouts, and ensuring that, during a bout, no wrestler injures himself on the bucket of chikara-mizu (power water) situated at one corner of the ring. They also can be seen displaying the advertising banners of companies who sponsor particular match-ups between popular wrestlers. They also are responsible for playing drums outside the arena (traditionally to attract customers) on match days.

The yobidashi also build the clay wrestling ring (or dohyō) for tournaments and display competitions, and rings for the training stables. There is also a tradition of the yobidashi writing songs, called jinku, based on sumo life.

Damn they're the people booking the show, making the flyer, watching the door, passing the hat, AND running sound!!! That's the real "spirit of the scene". Let's watch it again:

I found this video a few months ago, via another video that showed up in my feed first, with the catchier title "That's The Sound". That's The Sound is same video as Original Clapper Video but at the end, it's not the sound, it's some other sound, followed by a voice saying "NICE". It's a drag-- this wonderful patient build-up and then a rude and spiteful denouement.

You don't have to watch this one but it's right here:

1 That's The Sound

It's such a minor change that it's sort of hard to even notice, but my understanding is the new noise (and "NICE") are taken from a minor viral video of 2018, and while that video was the laff du jour in a certain circle of the internet, this video, "That's The Sound", racked up associated views. People loved to share a new surprising instance of this temporarily common coin, this other sound matched with this guy saying "NICE".

Over time the joke fell off, and stopped being a viable referrent. But the video still had tons of views, which gives it a sort of seniority, so it kept getting pushed by the YouTube recommendation engine, and it buried the original. It's a vile relic. If you look up adjacent topics ("sumo", "Japan", or maybe even "sound") you might get recommended this altered version, as I was.

Sadly, many in the comments for this one are unaware that there's even an edit-- to them the point of the video is just "this guy talks for a long time about a sound, then the sound itself is so small, quick, and slight". Some of them are like "wow, so much work, but it is a great sound", which is so pathetic-- they were hoodwinked by the build-up. Frankly, everyone in the comments for this one that isn't saying Fuck You Dude, is pathetic.

Of course I had to find the real sound so I looked up "that's the sound original clapper Japan" or whatever and found the source. Or it's not the source, but it's a faithful repost of the original clip.*update 2021/09/17: I just noticed that this video got taken down, or made private. so I made a new version, re-edited from the original documentary, and uploaded it to my own youtube account. All the stuff here about the comments and the uploader and so on refer to the previous uploader, "corv".


It seems like everyone in the comments is in the same boat as me, looking for the original clapper video after being frustrated by the joke version. All the comments are basically like this:


I was nervous watching it for the first time, worried the new sound would be even worse, but it's not, the sound is great. Let's watch it again:

2 Original Clapper Video

Something really beautiful is that the person that posted Original Clapper Video responds to every comment, trying to increase the engagement with the post and make the YouTube recommendation engine see this version of the video as the preferred version, or at least make it easier to find, for those looking for it. It's spiritually motivated SEO (Search Engine Optimization). When I left a comment I got a response back pretty quickly-- they must have notifications on on their phone. I appreciate their commitment to this role, to this sound. I appreciate their humility.

OK I'll just put the video here one more time if you want to watch it again. Last time for now:

Though I don't like "That's The Sound", I'm thankful that it put so many, including me, on the quest for the True Sound.

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other posts you may enjoy (chosen at random) :
Lemon Bag
Tainted Alligator Soufflé
Mouse In The House