Witness the strenght of Sumo Wrestlers
If we are lucky we will be able to get you tickets for a Sumo Tournament; I say lucky because Sumo is so popular that tickets are sold out within a few minutes. If you are interested in seeing Sumo then let your Japan travel expert know and they will see if there are any bouts while you in Japan.
Sumo Tournaments and Ranks:
Professional sumo wrestlers are called rikishi. Six Grand Tournaments, each lasting fifteen days, are held annually in Japan. Three take place in Tokyo, and the others are in Nagoya, Kyushu, and Osaka. Throughout the tournament each wrestler fights one opponent per day. The wrestler with the most wins is awarded the Emperor’s Cup.
Rikishi are ranked according to their wins. A list called the banzuke, issued by the Nihon Sumo Kyokai, is revised after each Grand Tournament and tracks the ranking of the wrestlers. The highest rank is called yokozuna. Less than 70 rikishi have achieved the status of yokozuna since the title was created 300 years ago. Rikishi style their long hair according to their rank.
On tournament days rikishi perform an “entering the ring” ceremony called doyo-iri. They wear elaborately embroidered aprons. Rituals performed during this ceremony are meant to attract the attention of gods and drive evil away.
Referees called gyoji officiate at the bouts. They wear kimonos, and their black hats resemble those of Shinto priests. Colored tassels on their fans signify rank. Only gyoji of higher rank wear stockings and sandals; lower ranking gyoji go barefoot. Each bout has five judges, who settle matters should a decision made by the gyoji be questioned.
The loincloth rikishi wear for matches is called a mawashi, made from lengths of silk that measure about ten yards by two feet. The cloth is folded and wrapped around the waist. Ornamental strands of silk stiffened with glue hang from the mawashi.
Before the match begins, Rikishis enter the dohyo and go through a series of movements meant to purify and protect. These include rinsing his mouth with water and wiping his body with a towel. Rikishi of higher rank scatter a handful of salt, which is meant to purify the dohyo and protect him from injuries.
Another part of the pre-match ritual is called the shikiri. This is when the rishiki face each other in a squatting position and glare in an intimidating way. They retreat back to their corners, throw more salt, and return to again face each other. The higher the rank, the longer the rikishi can engage in shikiri. The lowest ranking rikishi are not allowed this ritual and must begin the match right away. The highest ranking rikishi have up to four minutes to psyche themselves up as well as the spectators. For all the pre-match activity, the actual bout is usually over within a few minutes.
Sumo tournaments last all day with lower ranking wrestlers starting in the morning and higher ranking wrestlers in the afternoon. Each day the starting times are slightly different but this will give you a clearer idea of when you should watch.
8:00am Doors Open
Until the official start you may see some unranked wrestlers testing out their skills
8:40am Jonokuchi Makushita Division Bouts
These bouts are for the lowest ranking wrestlers but these men are interested in moving up so the bouts can be exciting.
14:20 Juryo Rikishi Ceremonial Entrance
This is the start of the intermediate ranked wrestlers and starts with the men wearing their kesho-mawashi (ceremonial aprons). These are the first bouts of professional wrestlers.
14:40 Juryo Division Bouts Start
These are up and coming wrestlers looking to prove they have what it takes to move up to the next rank with the final goal of being the Yokozuna grand champion.
15:45 Makuuchi Rikishi Ceremonial Entrance
The top ranked wrestlers enter the ring and perform their opening ceremony wearing their more ornate kesho-mawashi (ceremonial aprons).
15:50 Yokozuna Grand Champion Ring Entrance
The top wrestler is called Yokozuna and has a separate grand entrance. The ceremony he performs is designed to engage the crowds and get them excited about the coming bouts. He will call out “Yoisho!” which roughly translates into “Let’s do this!” Japanese use this phrase when picking up something heavy.
16:15 Makuuchi Bouts Start
This is the main bouts of the day
18:00 Bow Dance Ceremony
After the final bout each day (except the final day) a lower ranking wrestler will perform a bow dance (yumitori-shiki) to mark the end of the day. Basically he is telling everyone that they do not need to go home but they cannot stay here.
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Our team of Japan experts have all lived in Japan for years and know its the hidden treasures. Our team is here to answer all your questions and to build your tour just the way you want it.
Jeff was born in a south suburb of Chicago named South Holland and lived in Japan for 14 years. He now lives in Commerce Township, Michigan with his wife Yoshimi, son Shota, and daughter Mina. He enjoys playing with his kids, volunteering with his daughter’s marching band, cycling and training and teaching Aikido.
Michiyo was born in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido Prefecture though currently lives in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture. Her main passions in life is traveling all around the world and enjoying their cultures.
Izumi has spent most of her life in the Kansai region, except for the 10 years that she enjoyed in the UK. Living abroad has made her appreciate her own culture and local beauty even more. She currently lives in Osaka with her family, including two cats and two dogs.
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