Liberal Arts Blog — Japan IV: Sumo Wrestling: Rikishi, Dohyo, Heya
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Today’s Topic — Japan IV: Sumo Wrestling: Rikishi, Dohyo, Heya
The “national sport” of Japan, sumo wrestling, apparently has its origins in “an agricultural ritual dance performed for a good harvest.” The first mention in an historical manuscript was the story of a wrestling match between the God of Thunder and the God of Water for possession of the Japanese islands. The sport is only practiced professionally in Japan. But the greatest sumo wrestler of all time is actually Mongolian — Yakuho Sho (1985 — ). Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
HOW SUMO WORKS: the elevated ring (dohyo), very short matches, how you lose
1. “Matches take place on an elevated ring (dohyo), which is made of clay and covered in a layer of sand. “
2. “A contest usually lasts only a few seconds, but in rare cases can take a minute or more.”
3. “The wrestler who first exits the ring or touches the ground with any part of his body besides the soles of his feet loses.”
NB: “There are no weight restrictions or classes in sumo, meaning that wrestlers can easily find themselves matched off against someone many times their size. As a result, weight gain is an essential part of sumo training.”
SUMO WRESTLERS (ALL MALE) LIVE IN “TRAINING STABLES” (HEYA) AND HAVE LITTLE FREEDOM
1. The lives of the wrestlers (rishiki) is strictly regimented according to rules set by the Sumo Association. “For example, the association prohibits wrestlers from driving cars, although this is partly out of necessity as many wrestlers are too big to fit behind a steering wheel. Breaking the rules can result in fines and/or suspension for both the offending wrestler and his stable master.” Sumo is a form of Shinto ritual and salt is thrown by the wrestlers before the match to “purify the ring.” (See above)
2. “On entering sumo, they are expected to grow their hair long to form a topknot, or, chonmage, similar to the samurai hairstyles of the Edo period. Furthermore, they are expected to wear the chonmage and traditional Japanese dress when in public, allowing them to be identified immediately as wrestlers.”
3. “The type and quality of the dress depends on the wrestler’s rank. Rikishi in “jonidan” and below are allowed to wear only a thin cotton robe called a “yukata,” even in winter. Furthermore, when outside, they must wear a form of wooden sandal called “geta.” Wrestlers in the makushita and sandanme divisions can wear a form of traditional short overcoat over their yukata and are allowed to wear straw sandals, called “zori.” The higher-ranked “sekitori” can wear silk robes of their own choice, and the quality of the garb is significantly improved. They also are expected to wear a more elaborate form of topknot called an ōichō (big gingko leaf) on formal occasions.”
NB: “Sumo wrestlers have a life expectancy between 60 and 65, more than 10 years shorter than the average Japanese male, as the diet and sport take a toll on the wrestler’s body.”
SIX TOURNAMENTS PER YEAR — Tokyo (3), Osaka (1), Nagoya (1), Fukuoka (1)
1. Three in Tokyo (January, May, September)
2. One each in Osaka (March), Nagoya (July), Fukuoka (November)
3. “Each tournament lasts for 15 days during which each wrestler performs in one match per day except lower ranked wrestlers who perform in fewer matches.”
FOOTNOTE: Yakuho Sho (1985 — ) greatest sumo wrestler of all time?
1. 6 feet 4 inches, 348 lbs. Son of an Olympic silver metalist in free style wrestling. Born in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
2. “Making his debut in March 2001, he reached the top “makuuchi” division in May 2004. In May 2007, at the age of 22, he became the second native of Mongolia, and the fourth non-Japanese overall, to be promoted to the highest rank in sumo, “yokozuna.” In 2009, he broke the record for the most wins in a calendar year, winning 86 out of 90 bouts, and repeated this feat with the same record again in 2010 when he established the second longest winning streak in sumo history. He also holds the record for the most undefeated tournament championships at fifteen, which is seven more than any other sumo wrestler in history.”
3. “He was the only active yokozuna from 2010, following the retirement of his rival and fellow Mongolian Asashoryu, until 2012 with the promotion of fellow Mongolian Harumafuji. He became the only active yokozuna once again following the retirement of his rival and fellow Mongolian Kakuryuin 2021.”
NB: “In January 2015, he broke Taiho’s long-standing record by winning his 33rd top division championship, the most in the history of sumo. He holds the records for most wins in the top division, achieved in May 2016, and most career wins, achieved in July 2017.He is the longest-serving yokozuna of all-time, having surpassed Haguroyama’s record in 2019, and fought his 1000th bout as a yokozuna in July 2020. He acquired Japanese citizenship in 2019.”
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This is your chance to make some one else’s day. Or even change their life. It’s perhaps a chance to put into words something you have never articulated before. And to cement in your own memory something cool you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.