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.
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).
Yokozuna is the highest rank in sumo. Less than 100 wrestlers have been granted (認める、与える、許す) the rank since 1630. Yokozuna are legendary sumo wrestlers that have reached the highest excellence in three areas : power, skill and dignity (grace : 威厳、尊厳、品位、気品). Yokozuna wear a ceremonial rope called a “tsuna” around their waist for their ring entering. These weigh up to 20 kilograms.Yokozuna requires skill, mental strength and good physical condition.
Ozeki is the second highest rank in sumo. Promotion is discretionary (任意の、自由裁量の) but is primarily (主に、第一に) based on a wrestlers record. A total of 33 wins over three tournaments almost always gets a wrestler a Ozeki rank. Ozeki rank isn’t permanent. Wrestlers must maintain a good record to keep the title.
A total of 30 wins over the three most recent tournaments usually gets a wrestler a Sekiwake rank.
Komusubi have achieved more wins than loses in a tournament, a result known as “kachi-koshi”. There are usually just a few wrestlers with a Komusubi rank. It’s a difficult rank to maintain. Once you are promoted to Komusubi you are schedule to wrestle Sekiwake, Ozeki and even Yokozuna in the next tournament. Most wrestlers quickly lose their Komusubi status.
The cultural difference that surprised you the most is the hierarchical relationship between senior and junior sumo wrestlers.
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.《Read more》
① Ringside seats
Located closest to the ring, ringside seats are most expensive and most difficult to get. Ticket holders sit on cushions on the floor and are exposed (さらされる) to the risk of injury due to wrestlers flying into the spectators (観客).
② Box seats
The rest of the stadium’s first floor consists of Japanese style box seats, which generally seat four people. Shoes are removed, and spectators sit on cushions. Tickets are sold for entire boxes regardless of (～を問わず) whether they are fully occupied (占領する、使用する) or not. Box seats are further (さらにまた) classified (分類する) into A, B and C boxes according to distance to the ring.
③ Balcony seats
On the second floor balcony, there are several rows (列、並び) of Western-style seats. Balcony seats, too, are further classified into A, B and C seats depending on distance to the ring.
Even if the ticket is sold out in advance, a limited number of same-day balcony seat tickets are sold on the day at the stadium. Sumo tickets go on sale roughly one month before the start of each tournament.
Lower division matches start from 8:30 (from 10:00 on days 13-15), second division (Juryo) matches from 15:00 and top division (Makuuchi) matches from 16:00. Ring entering ceremonies between divisions are also interesting to watch. I recommend spectators with limited time to be present at the stadium at least for the top division action between 15:30 and 18:00.
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 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.