When it comes to Japanese sport, the most iconic picture that comes to mind is that of two huge men facing each other, wearing nothing but a loin cloth, gearing up for a battle of the titans (quite literally!). Sumo, as a sport and as a tradition, has evolved immensely to become the National Sport of Japan.
More than 1500 years ago, Sumo originated as a ritual to appease Gods and pray for a good harvest. Gradually the imperial court began holding sumo bouts, thus patronising the sport. A Sumo wrestler is called rikishi, which means a strong man. The wrestlers have to undergo intense training at a sumo-stable called sumoubeya, which makes them physically and mentally strong. While sumo wrestlers appear hefty now, occasionally one may come across slim sumo wrestlers too! The diet of a wrestler involves a high-calorie stew called Chanko nabe which is made with chicken, pork and vegetables. This is had in huge quantities in order to strengthen the body and gain weight.
Though Sumo is traditionally meant for men, women too have pursued this sport and have tried to defy stereotypes. India too saw her first female Sumo wrestler in Hetal Dave of Mumbai. All over the world, women are gradually taking a fancy for this sport.
This highly popular sport is hierarchical with the yokozuna or Grand Champion, at the top. The attire of a rikishi is a loin cloth called mawashi. The material and colour of the mawashi depends on the rank of the wrestler. A highly ranked rikishi may wear a mawashi made of silk.
Sumo tournaments take place six times in a year, attracting fans from all over the world. In recent times, foreigners are also reaching the ranks of yokozuna, thereby expanding the reach of Japanese culture. Sumo bouts take place inside a ring marked by straw rice bags.
The bout is held sacred and so the sumo ring is blessed by a Shinto priest before the tournament begins. Before a bout begins, the wrestlers stomp their feet or sprinkle salt in the ring to ward off evil spirits.
A bout is won when a rikishi manages to push the opponent out of the ring or makes him touch the ground with any other part of the body except the soles of his feet. In order to do so, a wrestler may slap, push or flip his opponent over. All of this takes place in a matter of seconds.
The decision of a referee in a Sumo match is deemed final. In case fans are unhappy with the decision, they throw the cushions they are sitting on, inside the ring. The winner of the tournament is awarded loads of gifts and prize money, sometimes even a new car. The victory and the subsequent jubilation comes as a happy outcome after months or even years of harsh training. This sport has managed to retain the cultural traditions of Japan while being a medium to showcase vigour and agility.
Written by G. Anjanalakshmi
JCA Organising committee member
The Japanese club Ahmedabad runs workshops, demonstrations and other activities for organised groups, clubs and schools trying to include as many sessions as possible free to the public. While the workshops are always free for the club members, non-club members may be charged an entrance fee.
Date: June 18, 2017 Time: 10 AM Venue: Club Activity Centre
More 2017 events will appear here as they are confirmed.