Japanese Traditional Sport ”Sumo”

Do you know the Japanese traditional sport “Sumo”? To put it simply, it is a martial art by large men. But the clothing and rules are completely different from other martial arts. Sumo has been around for over 1,500 years and still has many fans. And now there are many wrestlers from overseas.

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What Kind of Sport Is ”Sumo”?

Sumo is a combat sport where men fight one on one. Wrestlers are called 力士 “Rikishi”. You may know them as “Sumo wrestlers”. 

The rules are simple. That matches are held within a circle of rope called 土俵 “Dohyo”. The two rikishi will try to push each other out of the dohyo or knock over the other. The first one to step out of the dohyo or to touch the ground with any part of his body other than the soles of his feet loses.

The fighting clothing of rikishi is very unique. They wear only a belt called まわし “Mawashi”. Also, they have a samurai-like hairstyle. 

Recommended Points of Sumo

First recommended point is dynamic fighting. The average weight of rikishi is 150kg. It is very powerful to watch big-bodied rikishi wrestle with each other.

Sumo is not weight-based, unlike wrestling and boxing. Sometimes they fight opponents with a weight difference of nearly 100kg. You might think that a heavier rikishi is stronger, but the interesting point is that a smaller rikishi can defeat a larger opponent.

The ranking system is also unique. They are ranked by their tournament result. The highest rank is called 横綱 “Yokozuna,” and they fight to become yokozuna-ranked rikishi. While non-yokozuna ranked rikishi may fall down the ranks, once a rikishi becomes yokozuna, he does not fall from the highest rank until he retires. Yokozuna is a special position for rikishi.


Rikishi From Overseas

People from various countries play as rikishi. 

Akebono, born in the U.S., was the first non-Japanese rikishi to become Yokozuna in 1993. Recently, rikishi from Mongolia have won championships. So far, five Mongolian rikishi have become Yokozuna.

Kinpozan, whom I am now rooting for, is from Kazakhstan. He debuted last November and is moving up the rankings at an incredible rate. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his winning in the future.

Let’s Watch Sumo Tournaments!

Sumo tournaments are held six times every year. Held for odd months, each tournament starts and ends on a Sunday and lasts 15 days. 

You can watch the match on TV, but I recommend that you watch it in the Sumo arenas. You will enjoy more exciting fights.

That’s not the only fun part of watching Sumo. The venue is special and you will feel like you are in a different world. You can see a uniquely decorated venue and staff wearing traditional Japanese clothing.

You can also eat delicious food and sweets. My recommended food is Chanko-nabe which rikishi eat to get stronger. It is like a stew and Sumo stables to which the rikishi belong have their original recipes. Many of its restaurants are located near 両国国技館 (Ryogoku kokugikan), the center of the Sumo arenas.



 When you come to Japan, you should definitely go to watch a Sumo match. If you want to know more information, for example, when Sumo tournaments are held and ticket information, you can check this website. (https://www.sumo.or.jp/En/)