Grand Sumo Tournament Sept, 2011

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Sumo, the Japanese style of wrestling, is the national sport of Japan.In total,there are 6 Grand tournaments per year.While 3 are held in Tokyo,there’s one held each at Osaka,Nagoya and Kyushu.Recently we had been to the 1st day of the September Grand Sumo Tournament 2011, held at the Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium in Tokyo.

Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium

The rules of  Sumo and the tournament are quite simple.A tournament spans 15 days and the wrestler with the highest number of wins over losses is awarded the Emperor Cup on the final day of the tournament.

The Emperor's Cup
Other important awards

Before coming to the rules and ceremonies of  Sumo, let’s get familiar with some imp people 🙂 🙂

Rikishi – the Sumo wrestlers

Oyakata– the coach

Gyoji– the referees (in exquisite colourful kimonos,with a fan in hand, conducting the match) and

The 5 Judges ( in formal black kimonos)

The Banzuke or the ranking of the wrestlers is like a pyramid with one Yokozuna at the top, followed below by few Ozeki, more Sekiwake and so on as depicted in this image taken from the official website at

As we entered the stadium and located our seat, the view of the huge indoor arena was just magnificent with the Dohyo or the wrestling ground made of clay and sand, stealing the focus at the centre.

The huge Indoor arena
The Dohyo

The day’s matches were scheduled from 8 am till evening.We joined the fun towards afternoon because we knew that the initial bouts would be in between the junior wrestlers/trainees followed by the Juryo and then by the senior-most Makuuchi players.The wrestlers entered either from the west or the east side.A match typically lasted for a few secs to some for a min.And forcing the opponent out of the circle or onto the ground made for a win 🙂 🙂 What took most of every 4 min match was the traditional ceremonies and symbolic rituals associated with it, followed by a few intense moments that kept us on the edge of our seats 🙂 🙂

The highlights were the Dohyo-iri or the ring-entering ceremony held separately for the Juryo/Makuuchi players before the corresponding bouts began.The players came in and mounted the Dohyo alongwith their introduction to the crowd.The Yokozuna wasn’t a part of this ritual as he came in later for an exclusive ceremony.

Yokozuna entering the ring for his special ceremony

Yokozuna’s dohyo-iri ritual

After entering the Dohyo each rikishi goes through a series of symbolic movement. To cleanse his mind and body, he symbolically rinses his mouth with water, the source of purity, and wipes his body with a paper towel. Certain motions are repeated from the Yokozuna’s dohyo-iri, the raising of the arms to the side as well as the stamping of feet. Each rikishi also scatters a handful of salt to purify the ring. This is further supposed to insure him against injuries. The salt-throwing is, however, the privilege only of maku-uchijuryo and maku-shita rikishi.Every match being short and intense and different added up to the excitement as the crowd roared and sighed alongwith us. 🙂 🙂

Here’s sharing with u the Yokozuna’s bout of that evening.He is the one facing the opposite side.And the colorful banners are actually advertisements 🙂 🙂

And there were some matches where the result was difficult to decide and in such cases the 5 Judges huddled at the centre of the Dohyo and had a brief discussion before announcing the winner or a replay.

Judges' special discussion

After the Yokozuna’s bout i.e. the last bout there was the Yumitori-shiki ceremony which is a concluding rite of a Bow-dance.


Thereafter the day was wrapped up by covering the Dohyo as people left without any fuss or ado..having enjoyed the day’s events thoroughly 🙂 🙂

As we came out we noticed  a huge tower with someone drumming on top of it and as we had guessed was to signal the end of the day’s schedule.This ritual is called the Taiko-uchiwake and is performed at the beginning and end of the day’s matches.

Ryogoku Kokugikan

And now to wrap up the tour here’s sharing a few random snapshots from the day’s events.And all credit for the snaps and videos goes to my darling hubby who captured every possible video n snap all through the 5 hrs of our visit..just so that i can later share it on my blog 🙂 🙂 Hope u enjoy as much as we did 🙂 🙂

Cleansing by drinking water

Sankya pose

Size does not matter in choosing the opponents !
Stamping the Dohyo to ward off evil
Shiomaki-the ritual of throwing salt to purify the Dohyo
The Dohyo being swept clean from time to time

Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo stadium arena 🙂 🙂




This post is part of the J-Festa-September 2011 theme “Events in Japan” at Japingu.


13 thoughts on “Grand Sumo Tournament Sept, 2011

  1. Wow. What an interesting post on something I know nothing about. Fascinating. And the video was amazing as I watched the ceremony and posturing that is evidently a part of this sport. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  2. this post is amazing!! I was always fascinated about sumo (from different movies that I had seen), you gave such an elaborate description with those amazing breathtaking pictures and videos, that i could already feel myself on the toes..

  3. Great photos – and write up. I’ve only been to see Sumo once – but absolutely loved it. Not because I’m a fan, but just because it was so mesmerising. Great experience for anyone who has the opportunity to go.

    1. Thanks so much Ben.Glad that you liked it.And was really a great experience…and the fact that each bout is so short and also distinctly different from another makes it all the more interesting.One can never predict the winner 🙂 🙂
      Good to hear from u..have a great day !

a flash of ur thought...a flash of my smile .. :) :)

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