Sumo

Sumo 101: Kuramae Kokugikan

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

The six yearly grand sumo tournaments are held at four locations.

The January, March and September meets are in Tokyo, while the March, July and November tournaments take place in Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka, respectively.

The venues for all six have remained the same for decades with large multi-purpose gyms used outside of Tokyo, and the Japan Sumo Association’s Ryogoku Kokugikan the location for all tournaments in the capital.

The current Kokugikan is the third building with that name to have has existed in the downtown area of Tokyo.

From the 1950s through 1984 tournaments were held across the Sumida River in the Kuramae Kokugikan.

That large structure was torn down and the offices of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Sewage now stand on the spot.

There is little to inform passers-by that a sumo stadium was once located in the area, but the nearby Kuramae bridge does contain sumo wrestlers designs built into its guardrails.

Kuramae Kokugikan, like its successor in Ryogoku, was opened with a dedication ceremony that contained a pair of yokozuna (in this case Chiyonoyama and Kagamisato) performing the rarely seen sandangamae ceremony.

Another thing it had in common with the current home of sumo is the hiring of the venue for other sporting events. The ring in Ryogoku Kokugikan can be lowered into the ground when not in use for sumo, but that wasn’t the case in Kuramae so wrestling rings, etc. had to be built over the dohyo.

Kuramae Kokugikan also featured in the 1967 James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice,” although quite how 007 manages to magically transport himself to the arena by walking though a small door in a side alley in Ginza is never explained.

Sean Connery also waltzes straight into the dressing rooms and talks to and gets his tickets directly from yokozuna Sadanoyama (with Taiho and Kashiwado watching in the background).

Why he needs tickets when already inside the area is also a mystery.

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