Know the rules and the ranking categories of Sumo and enjoy it!


Sumo (相撲) is a Japanese style of wrestling and Japan’s national sport, and it is still a widely enjoyed spectator sport in Japan with fans all over the country. It originated (源を発する) in ancient times (古代) as a performance to entertain (楽しませる、慰める)  the Shinto deities (deityの複数形:神格・神性). Many rituals (儀式、行事)  with religious background, such as the symbolic purification (浄化) of the ring with salt, are still followed today. 

In line with tradition (伝統に従って), only men practice the sport professionally in Japan. The rules are simple : the wrestler who first exits (出る) the ring or touches the ground with any part of his body besides (~を除いて、~のほかに) the soles of his feet (足の裏) loses. 


Matches take place (行われる) on an elevated (高い、高尚な)  ring (土俵:dohyo), which is made of clay (土) and covered in a layer of sand (砂層). A contest usually lasts only a few seconds, but in rare cases can take a minute or more. There are no weight restrictions (制限、制約) or classes (部類) in sumo. As a result, weight gain is an essential part of sumo training.

So…get ready to watch the next sumo tournament by acquainting (精通する、知らせる) yourself with the different divisions and ranks of professional sumo.


What are the sumo ranks?

The governing body (首脳部) of professional sumo is the Japan Sumo Association (JSA). Six tournaments are held every year ; three in Tokyo (January, May and September) and one each in Osaka (March), Nagoya (July) and Fukuoka (November). Each tournament lasts (続く) for 15 days.

All sumo wrestlers are classified (分類する) in a ranking hierarchy (番付:banzuke), which gets updated after each tournament based on the wrestlers’ performance. Wrestlers with positive records (more wins than losses) move up the hierarchy, while those with negative records get demoted (級を落とす). 



The top division is called “Makuuchi” (幕内) and the second division is called “Juryo” (十両). At the pinnacle (頂点) of the sumo hierarchy stands the Yokozuna (grand champion). Yokozuna is the highest rank in sumo.

Unlike (ではなく) wrestlers in lower ranks, a yokozuna can’t be demoted, but he will be expected to retire when his performance begins to worsen (悪化する).





The ranking categories of Sumo

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How to see a sumo tournament

Tickets are sold for each day of the 15-day tournaments. They can be purchase in advance through the official vendor (売り主、供給元) or the ticket office. Alternatively (あるいは、代わりに), they can be purchased at convenience stores or at the stadiums.

One of the keys to enjoying a Sumo tournament is to go in (参加する)  with a sense of the current rankings of the wrestlers. The days of grand tournaments run from early morning to evening with a large number of matches in a single day. Matches generally progress from lowly ranked wrestlers to highly ranked as the day goes on (進む、続ける).

Three types of seats are available to regular visitors.

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How much money do sumo wrestlers make?

Juryo-ranked wrestlers are now considered professional competitors. Wrestlers in the juryo and makuuchi divisions are known as sekitori. The average salary of a professionally ranked sekitori sumo wrestler is one million yen (about 8,800 US $ ) per month, plus additional perks (特権) and prize money.





Chanko Nabe Restaurants

Chanko nabe is the staple (主要な) food of sumo wrestlers. It is a hot pot dish that comes in many varieties and contains vegetables, seafood and meat. There is a high concentration (集中、集結) of chanko nabe restaurants in the Ryogoku area, many of which are managed by retired wrestlers.

Some restaurants even have a dohyo ring in them. If you are interested, please try it once, even after watching matches.