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25 Fascinating Facts You Might Not Know About Sumo

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Sumo Japan

There are many things in the world that I am truly and commitedly ignorant about. Sports match used to be one of it. There were only two times in life I watched a complete session of it. The first one was a national cricket match, together with Fafa and his friends on his birthday eve, it lasted for four hours. The second one was in one of rural Hokkaido train stations, while waiting for Vi and Mr T to reach, it lasted for about four second. It was a sumo wrestling match and despite the gruesomeness, I was really into it. I have been hooked ever since, utilizing YouTube as the main source.

Sumo wrestling is traditional and national Japanese sport involving two men facing off in a circular ring. To win, one of them should push the other out of the circle.

I have been reading a lot about Sumo and find it utterly fascinating. I wish I can watch a live show of it someday.

Here are some fascinating facts you might not know about sumo:

  • A sumo wrestler is a called a Rikishi.
  • They start their career as early as a primary school graduate.
  • Sumo wrestlers are required to grow their hair long and wear it on top of their heads in a top-knot.
  • They also live a traditional lifestyle, including the requirement to wear only yukata or kimono in public.
  • They live in a stable together with other Rikishi, where they spend the day training, eating and sleeping.
  • The highest rank attainable in the sumo world, Yokozuna, has been held by non Japanese wrestlers for a decade.
  • Younger sumo wrestlers are traditionally required to clean and bathe their seniors.
  • Everyday sumo wrestlers have to eat, eat and eat to the point of nausea.
  • Their traditional meal called Chankonabe, it’s a high protein stew  eaten in a huge quantity as part of a weight gain diet.
  • Some wrestlers have superstitions about what kind of meat to use. Fish and cows can be considered bad luck because unlike chicken, they don’t stand on two feet like a good sumo wrestler should. That’s why at many sumo tournaments, chicken is the only choice of meat when it comes to chankonabe. (resource).
  • After their meal, they are required to take a long nap before waking up during dinner time to, what else? Eat again.
  • You can visit some sumo stables if you are interested, but usually you have to take part in a tour and pay a certain fee.
  • Sumo wrestlers have ring name (shikona). So even though the wrestler is a white guy who looks like a Tim or a George, he still would be called with something Japanese like Takanayoma.
  • My favorite sumo wrestler is Kotoōshū Katsunori. He is retired now.
  • Kotoōshū Katsunori I am a little embarrassed to admit liking him mainly because of his forever calm facial expressions and his festive looking mawashi, not because of his performance. Because for me a sumo watch is to be utterly enjoyed, within five seconds or so, without choosing sides.
  • Only higher raking sumo wrestlers can wear a silk mawashi (the belt look-alike cloth) and it’s usually 7 meters long, that’s longer than a saree, people. Also, if during the match it becomes undone, he loses.
  • Before their match, each sumo wrestler purify the ring from evil by throwing salt (check out salts on the air in the Kotoōshū Katsunori picture above). At first I thought they were throwing paddy rice, later for some reason I thought it was baby powder. Clearly, I was both wrong and stupid.
  • Sumo referee carries knives as an intent to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) if they make a mistake.
  • As I mentioned before, the wrestling match usually lasted for about a few seconds.
  • Sumo tickets go on sale a month before the start of each tournament in case you are also interested.
  • And if you attend a sumo watch and unhappy about the match, you can throw your cushions to show your disappointment.
  • Speaking of which, usually sumo match spectators are the older generations. As a fan, I am not too happy about this fact.
  • Sumo wrestlers are banned from driving cars.
  • There is an annual festival held for sumo wrestlers to compete and make babies cry as it’s considered as a good luck.
  • Sumo is still considered as men only sport. Personally, I prefer it that way.
  • Last fun and weird fact, which I read on the net recently, sumo wrestlers are given iPad because regular smart phones are too small for them to use.

Sumo Japan

^^ I know sumo is not everyone’s cup of Chankonabe. Look at how unimpressed Yin’s cat was by the match. But I hope this list awakens your curiosity about the national sport of Japan, Sumo. *bow down*.

Would you watch a sumo match? Shall we go together to a live match?

A disclaimer: I collected facts above from various sources on and offline. I hope it’s accurate and doesn’t offend anyone. You are more than welcome to correct or add onto it in the comment section.I will keep updating the list, as I want to add this to the Japan zine I am making this year. Kotoōshū Katsunori pic source.

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