Sumo

Sumo 101: Wakaimonogashira and Sewanin

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

The world of sumo has many behind-the-scenes characters that help keep the sport running smoothly.

Some like gyoji (referees) and yobidashi (ring announcers) also have an on-dohyo presence that grants them a measure of visibility while others such as tokoyama (hair dressers) toil away out of the public eye.

Two more sets of men fall into the latter category. They are the wakaimonogashira and sewanin.

So anonymous are they in fact that there is no standard English translation for their job titles.

Wakaimonogashira essentially means “youth supervisor” while sewanin is somewhere between “caretaker” and “manager.”

Wakaimonogashira and sewanin duties overlap quite a bit, but the latter are essentially assistants of the former and concern themselves more with the “things” of sumo whereas Wakaimonogashira primarily deal with “people,” or more specifically, younger wrestlers.

There are eight wakaimonogashira and 13 sewanin slots available in the Japan Sumo Association. Currently just one is vacant.

The men themselves are always former wrestlers, usually with long careers and a desire to stay in sumo after retirement, but without having achieved the standards necessary to obtain elder stock.

Their extensive experience, role in guiding and supervising new recruits, and knowledge of all sumo matters earns wakaimonogashira and sewanin a large degree of respect in sumo.

In some stables they are the primary manager and take care of all kinds of issues ranging from finances to logistics to medical.

Having spent most of their career in the lower division, they can often understand the problems and difficulties of younger wrestlers better than stablemasters who spent the bulk of their active sumo life ranked at ozeki or yokozuna.

Sewanin Yuho in the Otake stable provided that shoulder to cry on for Osunaarashi and their close relationship was clear for all to see when the big Egyptian threw his arms around Yuho and gave him a big tearful hug outside the dressing room after sealing promotion to the juryo division in 2013.

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