Sumo 101: Amateur sumo

Sumo May 13, 2019

Sumo 101: Amateur sumo

by John Gunning

What do Takakeisho, Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi have in common, apart from recently becoming first-time winners of the Emperor's Cup? The answer, of course, is that all three joined professional sumo after success in the amateur ranks. The first two won medals at the Junior World Championships, ...

Sumo 101: Ichimon

Sumo May 12, 2019

Sumo 101: Ichimon

by John Gunning

Sumo's family unit is the stable. A wrestler's life is defined by his heya (stable) to such an extent that "family" is no mere analogy. While they may not be related by blood, a stablemaster and his wrestlers live, eat and sleep in the same building ...

Sumo 101: Instant replay

Sumo Mar 24, 2019

Sumo 101: Instant replay

by John Gunning

One of sumo's most distinctive sights is its ringside judges. Clad in black, the five men are all sumo elders as well as former wrestlers. They are the ultimate authority when it comes to wins and losses. If one disagrees with the referee's decision he will raise ...

Sumo 101: College graduates in sumo

Sumo Mar 18, 2019

Sumo 101: College graduates in sumo

by John Gunning

New entrants into the world of sumo generally fall into three groups. Most are recent junior high school graduates with little to no previous sumo experience. That category has a fairly high washout rate, as the reality of sumo's harsh lifestyle normally comes as a shock ...

Sumo 101: Nicknames

Sumo Mar 17, 2019

Sumo 101: Nicknames

by John Gunning

All sumo wrestlers have a shikona (ring name). A few, like Endo or Takayasu, use their family name. Most, however, have ring names with elements referring to their stable or place of origin. Anyone with the prefix 琴 (Koto), for example, belongs to Sadogatake Stable or its ...

Sumo Mar 16, 2019

Sumo 101: Manga

by John Gunning

Sumo is currently experiencing a boom in popularity overseas. The ability to watch bouts in real time has been a contributing factor, as has the large increase in coverage in this paper and elsewhere. Sumo's addictive nature is well documented. Any online discussion of how fans got ...

Sumo 101: Closed stables

Sumo Mar 15, 2019

Sumo 101: Closed stables

by John Gunning

There are currently 46 heya (stables) in sumo. All bear the name of their stablemaster. Every wrestler, referee, ring announcer, hairdresser, etc., belongs to a heya. The vast majority live in the building that houses that stable. Some like Nishiiwa Beya have been around for just over ...

Sumo 101: Souvenirs

Sumo Mar 14, 2019

Sumo 101: Souvenirs

by John Gunning

Sumo is a unique sport and its merchandising reflects that fact. While many sports rely heavily on wearable items like hats, T-shirts, and replica uniforms, sumo tends to focus more on traditional Japanese goods and edibles. Tegata (autographed handprints), banzuke (ranking sheets) as well as various ...

Sumo 101: Sword bearers and dew sweepers

Sumo Mar 13, 2019

Sumo 101: Sword bearers and dew sweepers

by John Gunning

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 ...

Sumo 101: Wakaimonogashira and Sewanin

Sumo Mar 12, 2019

Sumo 101: Wakaimonogashira and Sewanin

by John Gunning

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 ...

Sumo 101: Pusher-thrusters

Sumo Mar 11, 2019

Sumo 101: Pusher-thrusters

by John Gunning

When many people think of sumo, they imagine two large men locked in a vice-like grip straining to force each other out of a ring. The common English-language naming of the sport as "sumo wrestling" also reinforces that grappling image. Go to almost any stable and ...

Sumo 101: Juryo

Sumo Mar 10, 2019

Sumo 101: Juryo

by John Gunning

The lion's share of media attention in sumo goes to the top (makuuchi) division. Its bouts are shown live on domestic television, its wrestlers are discussed endlessly online and in print and its winner is given a parade, ¥10 million and a giant silver trophy ...