Sumo

Sumo 101: Tegata

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Sumo might be a sport steeped in tradition but its governing body has a very modern approach to merchandising.

Attend a sumo tournament and you will see everything from wrestler-shaped chocolate to plush toys to ear wax removing picks, all branded with your favorite wrestler’s image.

Pretty much anything you can imagine a sumo version of, is for sale, including more standard fare like trading cards, T-shirts and miniature figures.

The one thing that you won’t see however is the item of memorabilia that is most desirable to sumo fans — tegata.

Tegata are autographed handprints, and while you can pick up a mass produced replica at tournaments, the real thing is never officially sold.

The only way to get a tegata, which normally comes on a standard 27 cm by 24 cm shikishi board, is from the wrestler himself or his stable.

They are made in batches and given to members of supporters clubs and a few other select individuals.

Of course it’s possible to buy them from some of the aforementioned people but again you need the connection.

The handprints are made with black or red ink with the name (written afterward) always in black. Higher-ranked men such as ozeki and yokozuna also put their official name and rank stamps on the boards.

Red ink used to be much more common, but in recent years wrestlers prefer to use black.

As with any collectible there is a market for tegata and indeed there are some foreign collectors with hundreds of handprints in their collection.

Prices fluctuate and are influenced by the popularity of the wrestler and the rarity of the handprint. The most expensive of course are legendary figures from the Edo era.

Lower-ranked wrestlers aren’t allowed to make tegata, so if you want one of a rising star like Naya for example you’ll have to wait till he reaches the juryo division.