A Guide to Today’s Sumo World

sumo_mainThe lowdown on sumo with info and viewing tips from a British sumo columnist

By: Mark Buckton (writer, sumo columnist)
From: JAPAN Monthly Web Magazine | Japan National Tourism Organization

sumoWith its roots in Shinto rituals, sumo is a traditional Japanese sport through which it is possible to experience Japanese culture by way of giant rikishi wrestlers. Mark Buckton, a British sumo columnist who has long been fascinated with sumo, will introduce the appeals of sumo, popular wrestlers in the modern game, and tips on sumo viewing to allow you to experience the sport like few ever will.

The magic and the majesty

That first glimpse of Japan’s most iconic of sports is something few ever forget once experienced. The size of the men in the ring, the simplicity with which the sport can be understood coupled to the depth of history and pageantry involved rarely fails to impress. Many a non-Japanese finds him or herself captivated almost immediately. Lack of Japanese language comprehension counts for little at first as tales of a sport that has evolved from shrine rituals are learned.

Sumo is said to have its roots in a ritual performed in Shinto shrines to show appreciation to resident gods whilst also praying for rich harvests. Offerings including the Japanese staple of rice are buried in the center of the earthen sumo ring, called a dohyo, and the roof hanging above the ring resembles those found on Shinto shrines, is made from the same materials, and uses the same methods of construction as those used at the Grand Shrine of Ise. Senior ranked wrestlers throw salt before each bout in order to purify the ring while the stomping movement of the wrestlers, called shiko, in which they lift their legs high in the air is performed to drive away bad spirits. In many ways, giant sumo wrestlers are seen as a sort of shaman with similar powers.

Add to the pot the fact that since 1757, almost 20-years before the US gained independence it has been a functioning sport of sorts with ranks, record-keeping and champions, and the true majesty of sumo begins to emerge from behind that initial impression of big guys pushing and falling.

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A guide to today’s sumo world | JAPAN Monthly Web Magazine | Japan National Tourism Organization.

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