What you need to know about Sumo Tournament in Japan

Jun 25, 2021

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Index

About the Grand Tournament

 The Sumo Grand Tournament is held six times every year, and each tournament lasts for 15 days. The schedule for the year of 2022 is shown in the table below.

Date Location Start End
January Tokyo January 9 January 23
March Osaka March 13 March 27
May Tokyo May 8 May 22
July Aichi July 10 July 24
September Tokyo September 11 September 25
November Fukuoka November 13 November 27

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The History of Sumo

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Sumo was a part of a religious ritual performed at Shinto shrines over 1,500 years ago, and it is considered as the world’s oldest organized sport. Therefore, some ritualistic elements remain in sumo wrestling, including the use of sacred water to rinse the mouth, and purifying salt to purify the fighting ring before the tournament starts. The referees also dress like Shinto priests, and a Shinto shrine hangs over the ring. The wrestlers also clap their hands when they enter the ring, in an act to summon the Gods.

Sumo was introduced into the ceremonies of the Imperial Court for the first time in 8th century (Nara Period), and later, the sports developed into a more technique-based form with rules. There are around 70 fighting techniques, or known as kimarite in Japanese, that a sumo wrestler (rikishi) can use to win the fight.[1]

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The Ranking of Sumo

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Sumo is practiced professionally in Japan, and professional wrestlers are ranked with “banzuke”. There are six different banzuke (in descending order) : Makuuchi, Juryo, Makushita, Sandanme, Jonidan, and Jonokuchi. The Makuuchi sumo wrestlers are the titleholders : Yokozuna with the highest rank, followed by ozeki, sekiwake, and komusubi. All wrestlers are promoted and demoted within these divisions based on their win and loss track record in official tournaments. Yokozuna wrestlers cannot be demoted, but if they can’t win every match, they are expected to retire.

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Tournament System

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Six sumo tournaments are held annually in four different cities in Japan. Three of the tournaments are held in Tokyo in January, May, and September, and the other tournaments are held in Osaka in March, Nagoya in July, and Fukuoka in November. During the 15-day tournament, each sumo wrestler takes on a different opponent, so all would have fought each other by the end of the tournament.

The sumo wrestler with most wins is considered as the champion of all tournaments. The tournament lasts for the whole day : the lower division matches start from 8:30, with the second division matches starting from 15:00, and the top division matches starting from 16:00 and ending by 18:00.

The Yokozuna match is always played last, so if you don’t want to spend the whole day at the stadium, you should probably just head there in the afternoon.

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About the Sumo Practice

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If you can’t visit Japan during the Grand Tournament, you can still enjoy sumo fights by visiting a sumo stable to observe a morning practice. A morning practice allows you to observe how sumo wrestlers hone their skills and live their lives. There are around forty sumo stables in Tokyo, mainly in Ryogoku district, where the Kokugikan Sumo Hall is located. Since sumo stables are not open to public, we strongly recommend booking a guided tour to observe a sumo morning practice.

 

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