Sumo 101: Shitakubeya (dressing rooms)

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Whether in the Kokugikan in Tokyo, or at one of the regional tournaments in Osaka, Nagoya or Fukuoka, sumo wrestlers warm up and prepare for their bouts in dressing rooms called shitakubeya.

There are always two shitakubeya and they are designated East and West.

Wrestlers who are facing each on a particular day other never occupy the same dressing room. This allows them to focus on their own preparation and avoids situations that could be conducive to match fixing.

Measures aimed at increasing vigilance against the latter problem, which were introduced a few years ago, included a ban on mobile phones in the shitakubeya.

Dressing rooms are laid out in an elongated U shape with the entrance near the open section and the yokozuna occupying the largest space at the other end.

Three sides of the U shape are filled with a raised wooden stage about knee height covered with tatami mats.

Wrestlers take their places on the stage in descending order of rank from the yokozuna on down toward the door.

During a tournament shitakubeya are a hive of actively with men fighting that day constantly entering and leaving the room. Assistants to higher rankers are always coming and going as well, bringing the cushions they will use out to the ring and back, fetching drinks for their seniors, helping them warm up, etc.

There is no ring in the shitakubeya but there is a teppo pole that can be used.

The general public isn’t allowed into the shitakubeya. The only time this rule is waived is when the tournament winner poses for a commemorative photo with the Emperor’s Cup surrounded by friends, family and supporters all doing the banzai pose.