Sumo referees are arguably the most elaborately outfitted arbiters in the sporting world.
The brightly colored kimonos they wear in the ring provide a dramatic contrast to wrestlers clad only in mawashi.
The intricateness of the attire, which is based on traditional clothing, increases as gyōji (referees) move up in rank and seniority.
Those in the lowest divisions wear cotton and go barefoot.
The men at the top are adorned in silk and wear traditional split toed socks and sandals.
The two highest-ranked referees (tate-gyōji) also have a dagger tucked into the belt of their kimono.
It represents their willingness to commit ritual suicide should they get a decision wrong in the ring.
That of course is just symbolic, but if an error is made by one of the tate-gyōji they generally offer to resign. The Japan Sumo Association normally rejects the offer.
Right now there is no occupant of either of the top two ranks but Shikimori Kandayu is scheduled to be promoted to tate-gyōji on Dec. 25.
Promotion follows a pattern of seniority with constant advancement as the men at the top retire, but can be delayed or denied due to poor performance or other factors.
Gyōji like rikishi take another name upon entering the sumo world. As with wrestlers, the names have both family and first name elements. For referees, the family name is always either Kimura or Shikimori.
There are various subtle differences to how referees act depending on which family name they use. Those with Kimura hold their gunbai (war fan) palm up, while Shikimori hold it palm down, for example.
As gyōji move up the ranks they change names to more prestigious ones.
The tate-gyōji names are Kimura Shonosuke and Shikimori Inosuke. The former is the higher ranked. Only 37 men have ever held that position.
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