Sumo Introduction For Your Great Experience

Sumo is a traditional sport related witrh Shinto ritual and recently very much familiar not only with Japanese people but alos forigners coming to Japan.
I write a brief introduction about Sumo for you to enjoy it while you are in Japan by actual Sumo watching or by television.

1) What is Sumo ?

  • Sumo is the oldest martial art and a national sport in Japan.
  • Sumo is a full-contact wrestling sport. A rikishi (sumo wrestler) try to force another wrestler out of a circular ring (dohyo) or force him touching the ground of the ring with anything body other than the soles of the feet.
  • Sumo was originally practiced as a Shinto ritual ceremony in gratitude for agricultural good harvest. Late in Kamakura era
    (from 1192 ~), Sumo had become to be treated as a martial art and in the Edo era (from 1603 ~ ), it has become a public enterta
  • Many ancient traditions of ritual ceremony have been preserved in Sumo, including many ritual elements such as salt purification.
  • The main six competitions called “O-zumo” are held in Tokyo (three times), Nagoya(one), Fukuoka(one) and Osaka(one) as one per every two months.

2) Historical background of a circle ring (Dohyo), stage passage (Hanamichi)

  1. Circle ring (Dohyo)

Current sumo show business has started to be held in Ryogoku since Edo period (1603 ~ 1867) and it is a Shinto ritual, making the sumo ring a sacred place same with the Shinto shrine inside after you enter Torii gate.  The base of the ring is made of pounded clay, with the ring made of clay-stuffed straw bales, known as “Dohyo”.

2. Stage passage (Hanamichi)

Hanamichi is the passage from both east and west from where sumo wrestlers come in before fighting and get out after that.
This passage for Sumo has started around 8th century when sumo was the Shinto rirual ceremony and the traditional custom has been preserved up to now. This passage is set toward the center of a Dohyo ring of sacred place.

3) Wrestlers’ ranking of Sumo:
In sumo, there are many ranks based on the wrestlers’ performance. The highest rank is Yokozuma as shown below.

Position of Sekitori(sumo wrestler)

Monthly salary ( yen)

Number of wrestlers(Jan. 2019)

Yokozuna (grand champion)

2600k ~


Ozeki (the second highest rank)

2200k ~


Sekiwake (the third highest rank)

1600k ~


Komusubi (the fourth highest rank)

1600k ~


Makuuchi (senior grade sumo wrestlers)

1200k ~


Juryo (junior grade sumo wrestlers)

950k ~



Position of lower than Makushita(junior grade sumo wrestler)

Monthly salary ( yen)

Number of wrestlers(Jan. 2019)

Makushita (junior grade sumo wrestlers)



Sandanme (The third lowest division)



Jonidan (the second lowest division)



Beginning (lowest rank)



4) What does “Yokozuna” mean?

Yokozuna is the highest rank in Sumo. The name literally means “horizontal rope”, which are worn around the waist. The rope is similar to the shimenawa used to mark off sacred areas in Shinto shrine.  Yokozuna carries a heavy burden of responsibility as the face of sumo in many ways.  Only 72 number of wrestlers while around 300 years has been promoted as Yokozuna. 
As such, Yokozuna is so important and responsible position.

5) Why do sumo wrestlers throw salt on the ring before the bout?
They drive away evil spirits under the ring by throwing salt which has long been considered as a symbol of purification in Japan. 
This ritual is performed with the prayer that wrestlers will not get hurt.

6) The system of Sumo stable:
“Sumo stable” is an organization of sumo wrestlers where they train and live together.
All wrestlers in professional sumo must belong to one stable.
There are currently 46 stables.   Oyakataa or a stablemaster manages the stable.

7) Basic action of Sumo:
Shiko:  Basic action to strengthen leg muscles
b) Suriashi: To learn how to move legs without removing soles of the feet from the ground.
c) Teppou: To train Tuppari (an exchange of thrusts) against a poll in training room or Tuppari with each other to strengthen arm muscular.
d) Ottsuke: To his own hands put into opponent arm and try to hold him up.
8)  Sumo technique to win:

Japan Sumo association defines 82 technique to win.
Above are the picture of some examples of the technique.

9) Sumo training watching experience:
As for Sumo training watching, there are three places you can watch the training as follows.
1) Arashio stable: You can watch the training through a big-size window from outside with no charge. The access from the nearest station by walking is around 6~8 minutes.
2) Hakkaku stable: Special reservation is required with charge to see the actual training inside the stable training room.
The access from the nearest station by walking is around 8 minutes.
3) Azumazeki stable: You can watch actual sumo training inside the stable with no charge.
It is on a first-come-first-served basis for you to watch the training. It will take around 15 minutes walking from the nearest station.

After you understand the history and the contents of Sumo with watching the actual sumo training, you will able to enjoy and feel impressive to watch sumo much better than before.
Please once try to have experience of sumo training watching.
by Kashima



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