Sumo

Sumo 101: Sword bearers and dew sweepers

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Every time a yokozuna performs the traditional ring-entering ceremony, he is flanked by two attendants.

They are the tachimochi (sword bearer) and tsuyuharai (dew sweeper).

The tachimochi is normally the higher ranked of the two, but both must be makuuchi-division wrestlers, and if possible, from the same stable as the yokozuna.

If there is no one that meets the criteria in the yokozuna’s stable then someone from another heya in the same ichimon (group of stables) is drafted in.

The tsuyuharai walks in front of the yokozuna when entering the arena and, once on the ring, takes up a position on his left. The tachimochi brings up the rear, holding the sword aloft in his (cloth-covered) right hand with the curve facing forward, and stays to the right of the yokozuna in the ring.

While yokozuna do have real swords made for them, which in the past were used in the ring-entering ceremony, these days a lighter bamboo one is used, both for safety and to make holding it easier.

The tsuyuharai and tachimochi don’t wear their own kesho-mawashi (ceremonial aprons) during the ring-entering ceremony. Instead a matching set of three mawashi owned by the yokozuna is used.

If either of the attendants is scheduled to fight the yokozuna, they do not take part in that day’s ceremony.

When former yokozuna reach the age of 60 they often do a special kanreki ring-entering ceremony while wearing a red tsuna (rope) rather than the traditional white, and with other yokozuna taking the roles of attendants.

Chiyonofuji and Kitanoumi were the tachimochi and tsuyuharai at the kanreki ring-entering ceremony for former yokozuna Taiho.

The event was even more significant than normal due to the sheer amount of silverware won by its participants.

The three men on the ring that day had 87 championships between them.