The Grand Sumo Tournament started on Jan. 13th and will last 27th. Sumo has more than 1000 years history and was closely related to Shinto (Japanese indigenous religion). So, sumo was not just a sport but Shinto ritual in the past. Still now, when we watch sumo wrestling, we can find some unique Shinto rituals performed there. Let me show you some of them.
Before a match, wrestlers rinse the mouth with water to purify themselves.
Sprinkles salt to purify the ring.
Stamp the ring to drive away evils under the ring.
The Tournaments are held every 2 months and each Tournament has 15 consective days. The wrestler who won 8 or more will promote his rank in the next Tournament, whereas won 7 or less will demote. The list below shows wrestlers ranks and annual salary . The highest rank is Yokozuna. There are 3 Yokozuna now. 1 is Japanese and other 2 are foreigner(both Mongolian). In addition to annual salary, top rank wrestlers can earn more money because they have lots of fans, supporters and sponsors. Today's Yokozuna, Hakuho,'s annual income is said to be double of the annual salary.
Every day, matches start 8 AM by lawer rank wrestlers and end 6PM by Yokozuna wrestler. AT 4 PM, the top 5 rank wrestlers (Maegashira and upper ranks) matches start. From 5:30 to 6 :00, top of the top wrestlers matches are held. The picture below is Ring Entering Ceremony held around 3:45 by top 5 rank wrestlers. Opening and holding up their hands means we have no weapon.
Yokozuna wrestlers perform the ceremony individually.
The rule of sumo is very simple. A wrestler loses when he is forced out of the ring or any part of his body except for the sole of the foot touches the ground. So usually, one match lasts in short period of time; more than 1 minute match, we think it a long one. The picture below shows Yobidashi caller calls the name of the wrestler of the next match. Then a Gyoji referee also calls the name of the wrestler.
The picture below shows Tachiai set position. Wrestlers repeat sprinkling salt, stamping ring, and setting position several times until the time limit.
When time limit comes, a caller hands a towel to a wrestler and people in the studium get excited.
5 Shinpan judges sit around the ring. All of them are former strong wrestlers and sumo stable masters. The result of a match is determined by a Gyoji refree, but if one or more of the Shinpan judge has complain about the refree's determination, all 6 members gather on the ring and discuss which wrestler really won. Sometimes, re-match is held.
Sumo started as Shinto rituals over 1000 years ago and now we enjoy it as an entertainment sports. But it still has lots of old and traditional aspects. Wrestlers have old top-not hair, refrees wear samurai's attire, judges and callers are also in traditional Japanese garment. Wrestlers wear gorgeous ceremonial aprons at ring entering ceremony and refrees and callers make voices in an unique tones. With those extraordinary sights, we enjoy sumo not only as a sport but also as like a traditional theatrical drama such as kabuki and noh.
Recently, Sumo has gained great populality among both Japanese and foreigners. So taking ticket for a tournament is very hard but we enjoy sumo matches on TV everyday. I hop you will enjoy Japan's oldest traditional sports.
Thank you for reading.
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