Coto Culture Experience Course: Japan’s National Sport – 相撲 Sumo

Sumo, with its colossal wrestlers and lightning-fast throws, is more than just a sport; it’s a cultural phenomenon deeply woven into the fabric of Japanese society. Sumo offers a unique glimpse into Japanese tradition, discipline, and raw athleticism, from its ancient Shinto roots to its modern-day tournaments. With this, in last week’s culture course, the students had the opportunity to watch the NHK Charity Grand Sumo Match. This blog will delve into learning more about Sumo and what happened during the event!

A Quick Jump To…

The NHK Charity Grand Sumo Match

The marketing team attended the NHK Charity Grand Sumo Match on Fed 10th last week! The event started with musicians and the rikishi performing by playing instruments, the taiko drum, dancing, and singing songs. After the performance, a lower-division competition follows. Each rikishi only has one chance, as one match is only one round, and the tournament is usually in the elimination match form. Then, because this was an NHK charity event, they had an interview session and a bunch of singing performances. At the end, which is the most memorable event, is the higher division’s friendly competition. During the event, the audience is actively cheering for the rikishi. It was a great experience, and we would love to have you attend the next one!

Check Out Our Video On The Sumo Event

Sumo’s History

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Sumo’s origins trace back centuries, with evidence suggesting its practice as early as the 7th century. Initially, it served as a performance for Shinto deities, incorporating rituals like the purification of the ring with salt, which is still practiced today. Over time, sumo evolved into a competitive sport, maintaining its strong connection to Shinto tradition.

The Rules of the Sumo Ring

Sumo’s rules are deceptively simple: the first wrestler to touch the ground outside the ring or any part of their body besides their feet to the ground loses. But beneath this simplicity lies a complex world of throws, pushes, and strategies—wrestlers, known as 力士 rikishi, train rigorously, honing their strength, agility, and mental fortitude.

The Grand Sumo Tournaments

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Six grand tournaments are held annually, each lasting 15 days. The atmosphere is electric, with fans cheering their favorite rikishi and traditional music filling the air. The highlight is the 幕内 makuuchi division, featuring the top-ranked wrestlers, including the revered 横綱 yokozuna, the highest rank in sumo.

Different Ranks/Divisions In Sumo

  • 横綱 yokozuna: The highest rank in sumo, meaning “grand champion.”
  • 大関 ōzeki: The second-highest rank, meaning “champion.”
  • 関脇 Sekiwake: The third-highest rank, meaning “barrier flank.”
  • 小結 Komusubi: The fourth-highest rank, meaning “small knot.”
  • 前頭 Maegashira: The top division of professional sumo, consisting of 42 wrestlers.
  • 十両 Juryo: The second division of professional sumo, consisting of 28 wrestlers.
  • 幕下 Makushita: The third division of professional sumo, consisting of 120 wrestlers.
  • 三段目 Sandanme: The fourth division of professional sumo, consisting of 180 wrestlers.
  • 序二段 Jonidan: The fifth division of professional sumo, consisting of around 200 wrestlers.
  • 序ノ口 or 序の口 Jonokuchi: The lowest division of professional sumo, consisting of around 50 wrestlers.

Sumo Performances Vocabulary

  • 勝ち越し kachi-koshi: Winning record (wins and losses)
  • 負け越し make-koshi: Losing record (losses and wins)
  • 全勝 zenshō: Perfect record (15 wins in a tournament)

Sumo Phrases To Know

  • 八景よい hakkei yoi: Fight! / Get going!
  • 手をついて te wo tsuite: Touch the ground!
  • まだ、まだ mada, mada: Not yet!
  • 残った、残った nokotta, nokotta: Keep going!

How to Watch Sumo Event

Usually, you get a ticket through their official website (link down below), and then you can go to a convenience store like Family Mart to get the ticket!

Are you interested in participating in events like this?

You can participate in more Japanese cultural experiences by joining Coto’s Culture Experience Course!

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