For the 140 or so years non-Japanese have known of the existence of sumo, many have referred to it as Japan's national sport. But are they correct about the status of this ancient form of wrestling found only in these islands, misinformed entirely, or just partly right?

Wherever opinions stand surrounding this ongoing debate, several facts cannot be ignored when considering the status that sumo so often has heaped on its shoulders by the well intentioned:

Sumo is often called "kokugi" in the Japanese media and by the population at large, and kokugi is a phrase most dictionaries translate as "national sport." Likewise, sumo is performed at a stadium known as the Kokugikan — with "kan" meaning hall or stadium.