Jilemnice sits in the lower Giant Mountains of Northern Bohemia, 30 kilometers from the Polish border. The town has existed since 1352, but only in the last year has it boasted a nine-meter-high statue of a sumo wrestler. Poriz and his father opened Hotel Sumo in 2000, adding oversize Japanese-style furniture, a wine cellar, and a bathtub large enough to hold my rental car. The hotel hosts sumo tournaments for all of Europe, welcoming wrestlers from 16 countries, and functions as a regular hotel between events.

Poriz' father, also named Jaroslav, walks me through the building and pulls back a wall of the restaurant to reveal an authentic dirt-floor dohyo. Sumo practice can be watched without having to leave the table. Wrestlers come here from all over the world to train, mostly from Japan, and stay for approximately 10 days, helping European wrestlers sharpen their skills.

On my flight from London, a Czech named Vladimir had told me the outstanding characteristic of Czech people is the "grumpiness." Poriz senior is anything but grumpy, laughing constantly and cracking jokes, many of which are intended solely to embarrass his son. He gestures to clippings framed on the wall, from a world championship tournament when he was the coach of the Czech sumo team. A wrestler dropped out at the last minute, so at age 47, Poriz senior participated in his place. He won his match, the first and only of his career, and pushed the Czech team into fifth place."It was a 30-second match," he says, "and then I retired. I left all my powers in dohyo!"

The three of us sit outside at tables, and a sumo chef serves us sumo steaks, essentially a slab of beef spilling over both sides of the plate, accompanied by tiny dollops of mustard and paprika. And more beer, of course. The sumo appetite is startling to observe in person. I watch Poriz and his father take bites three times the size of mine. When they've cleaned their plates, I'm not even half done. "More beer?" says Poriz senior. I answer, "No thanks, I'm fine." He sets another in front of me. "You will be finer."