Sumo

Sumo 101: Rikishi & social media

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

At first glance, sumo can seem intransigently stuck in the past.

Training consists mostly of repeating the exact same movements day after day with little regard for modern sports science or recovery, and both clothing and rituals remain unchanged from what they were centuries ago.

Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find surprising areas of progressiveness.

Sumo introduced instant replay in the 1960s, a quarter century before the NFL first experimented with the system and a full four decades prior to its introduction in rugby.

Likewise, social media is a realm in which the Japan Sumo Association and its wrestlers are surprisingly active.

A few hours of following social media feeds is all one needs to rethink the cliched image of rikishi as stoic warrior monks.

They have the same interests as young athletes in any other sport and make countless Twitter and Instagram posts about food, training, video games and pop culture. But thankfully, unlike the social channels of top American sports stars, rikishi feeds are virtually free of drama.

Connecting with fans online isn’t a new phenomenon in sumo.

Several stables and rikishi had blogs that were updated regularly as far back as 15 years ago, and one stable even streamed a daily live feed from their practice ring.

Understandably, some rikishi are more comfortable than others with social media usage and each has their preferred outlet.

Tochinoshin mostly sticks to Instagram. The burly ozeki will share virtually any tagged photo of himself in his “stories” feed.

Following his controversial loss to Asanoyama a few months back, that meant seeing a lot of content from angry Georgian fans if you were one of his followers.

Some accounts tend to be carefully curated and managed, but with rikishi like Tomokaze, Terutsuyoshi and Yoshikaze you get natural feeds that contain a lot of behind the scenes images and give a real fly-on-the-wall sense of sumo life.