Hong Kong – SumoSushiSake festival
Like many Hongkongers, entrepreneur Kelvin Ng has always had a fascination with Japan’s eclectic culture. The cluster of East Asian islands, famous for, well, sumo, sushi and sake, may have evolved considerably from the prehistoric Jomon period into the contemporary society of today, but Japan has still managed to retain many of its noble traditions. Much like Hong Kong, Japan strikes a distinctive balance between the ancient and the modern – possibly a reason why our city has developed a perpetual interest in the archipelago. And this is why Ng decided to organise the inaugural SumoSushiSake fair. And we don’t think we’re the only ones in Hong Kong who are excited about seeing a spot of Sumo wrestling live in Causeway Bay.
This out-of-the-box celebration of Japanese culture is the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Considering Ng’s day-job involves owning recruitment firms, the idea may seem a little surprising, but innovation is crucial for any business mogul. For Ng, organising such a big event hasn’t been a completely smooth ride. “It’s been a big challenge for us to rally so many partners, but we all believe we can pull this off together,” he says, emphatically.
One of the partners, The Hong Kong Sumo Association, has invoked an exciting lineup of wrestling matches throughout the day. Sumo is a relatively novel concept for most Hongkongers, but the sportsmen, who’ve all participated in worldwide tournaments, both talk about and demonstrate the national sport. “It’s not just two fat guys pushing each around!” Ng jokes.
Indeed, it isn’t. Sumo originated from ancient times, where it was a religious performance for the Shinto deities. The male-only sport is highly respected in Japan, and the Sumo at this event follows all the customary rubrics, including the pre-match ritual of purifying the ring with salt. There is no particular watching etiquette for audience members, but Ng advises to keep your eyes closely on the rikishi-wearing warriors. “An average sumo match only lasts a few seconds, in rare cases it will go over a minute,” he points out. “You might miss some of the action if you go for a bowl of ramen!”
The food on offer includes an array of familiar favourites from the likes of Nagahama No 1 Ramen, WabiSabi, Sugo Sushi to Go and Morikawa Bento. If you’re looking for something exclusive, Wolfgang Flying Brats are specially teaming up with Sushi Kuu’s chef Satoru Mukogawa to create a sausage dish accompanied by Western and Asian sauces.
Those with an iron stomach can challenge themselves with that fourth pillar of Japanese culture – the hot-dog and sushi-eating contests. The rules are simple: whoever can eat the most in three minutes is the winner. “We’re looking forward to see how Hong Kong’s big eaters fare against each other,” Ng says,“although we don’t expect anyone matching up with Takeru Kobayashi!”
Considering Japanese world hot-dog eating champion Kobayashi can finish 110 hot dogs in 10 minutes, he’s probably right.
Over 100 types of sake have been poured into the event, including Honjozo and sparkling Shochu. A special, premium style of sake called Kasan is introduced to Hong Kong for the first time. And lager-heads don’t fear – there’s plenty of Suntory beer, too.
Finally, no festival is complete without music. Ng has picked seven of the city’s best underground bands, including the bluesy Helter Skelter and high-voltage rock-and-roll group Bamboo Star, to provide the tunes.
Ng is hopeful that this festival will continue for years to come. “The festival is mainly for everyone to have an awesome day,” says Ng. To that, we shall wine, dine and unwind the Japanese way. Kanpai! Jenny Wong.