Sumô: sports, history and traditions
As promised, we keep on exploring Sumô and all that goes with it: Rikishi, Dohyô and Chanko-Nabe. Curious? Read what follows…
© All rights reserved If the history of Sumô seems to be dating back to 1,500 years ago, it is mentioned for the first time in the Kojiki in 712. The Kojiki (Tale of Ancient Times) is the oldest written tale in Japan and it describes the myths of the origin of gods (Kami) and of the islands composing Japan. Beyond the legend, the first fights may well have taken place 1,500 years ago during Shinto rituals made and dance, theatre and prayers.
Along with centuries, Sumô fights get more and more popular and are introduced in court. It soon becomes a sport and gets its current form in the 18th century. During the Meiji era, at the end of the 19th century, associations got created and the sport got professional. The Japanese Sumô Association was created in 1925 to manage professional competition.
Ukiyo-e painting by Kuniyoshi Utagawa
representing Masanosuke Inagawa
Professional Sumô is exclusively for men, women are even denied access to the Dohyô (the “ring”). The wrestlers are called Rikishi, the word Sumotori being seldom used in Japan and only for young wrestlers. Here are some characteristics of the Rikishi:
- they weigh from 70 to 280 kg, the weight of the best Rikishi being about 150 kg.
- their fighting clothes are Mowashi, it is the only hold allowed during the fight.
- their hair bun is called Chon Mage. The hair is made flat with oil and held in a flat bun going frontward. Rikishi keep their hair long during the whole of their career: it is never cut until they retire, during a ceremony, Danpatsu-Shiki.
- the rhythm of their life is very organized: after waking up at 5.00 am, they train. Then they eat Chanko-Nabe, they take a nap, and eat again. Chanko-Nabe is a high-calorie meal with chicken, Tofu, beef, fried fish, pork, mushroom and vegetables, depending on the cases.
© Tous droits réservés
Rikishi fight on the Dohyô, a square clay ring with a round fighting area. On the Dohyô, before the fight, bad spirits have to be chased away first: to achieve this first ritual, Rikishi hit the ground. Then purification takes place: salt is thrown on the Dohyô, it is Kiyome no Shio. Then comes the strength water ritual which the Rishiki drinks and spits back.
© Tous droits réservés
Rituals before the fight
Then the fight can start: the aim is to throw the adversary out of the fighting area or to make him touch the ground with another part of his body than his feet. To win, 82 holds are allowed. The most important tournaments defining the Rikishi charts are the Honbasho, with 6 per year.
To follow the Honbasho: www.sumo.or.jp (in English)
Rate this article:
Would you like to add a comment?
Join Japan Expo's community or sign in if you are already a member.