Sumo 101: Senshuraku

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

The last day of a sumo tournament is called senshuraku and it’s packed with all kinds of ceremonies and events not seen over the preceding 14.

The word itself combines the characters for “thousand,” “autumn” and “comfort” and is an old industry term for the final day of a performance and also used in kabuki.

The schedule of bouts is shorter than the rest of the tournament days and finishes about 35-45 minutes earlier than a regular day.

While the winner of the Emperor’s Cup is often decided on Day 14 or even 13, senshuraku is always full of tension as wrestlers with 7-7 records face make-or-break fights that will decide whether they rise or fall in the rankings.

After the presentation of the various trophies and prizes, the tournament concludes with all the new recruits coming up on the ring for a short closing ceremony that includes communal imbibing of sake and throwing a referee in the air. It’s actually much more dignified than it sounds

Senshuraku marks the end of sumo’s busiest time and is immediately followed by a week off for all wrestlers. Those in the lower divisions that have already completed their seven-bout schedule are normally in a relaxed mood from early in the day. It’s one of the best times to approach them for photos.

For many fans, one of their favorite things about Day 15 are the senshuraku parties.

Each stable holds an after-party either at the stable itself or a hotel if they need more space.

Entry is generally open to anyone and the fee at the door is normally about ¥10,000 to ¥15,000. For two hours you can mix and mingle with wrestlers, eat chankonabe and play bingo and games for sumo prizes.