Sumo is traditional Japanese wrestling. The origin of sumo is unknown. Japanese mythology says the first sumo match was held between two Shinto gods. The professional sumo league has been popular for hundreds of years. In the Edo period, many ukiyo-e, or a traditional Japanese art pictures of popular sumo wrestlers, were made. 


【Foreign Sumo Wrestlers】


Now there are a lot of sumo wrestlers from other countries. The first foreign wrestler, who was Hawaiian, came to Japan in the 1960s. Two Mongolians, Asashoryu and Hakuho, have become Yokozuna or Grand Champion. Now there are some popular wrestlers from Eastern Europe too.


【Torikumi (A Bout)】


To win, a wrestler has to force his opponent out of the ring, or make him touch the floor with a part of his body other than the bottom of his feet. Most matches are very short, often within 30 seconds. 




Each tournament, called a basho, is fifteen days long. There are six tournaments a year. In January, May, and September, tournaments are held in Tokyo. The March tournament is held in Osaka. The one in July is held in Nagoya, and the one in November is held in Fukuoka. 


Do you like sumo? You can watch it live on NHK. NHK is the only channel that can broadcast it live. 


► Q:How do wrestlers gain weight?


► A:As far as I know, in the morning, wrestlers practice on an empty stomach. After practice, they eat as much as they can and then take a nap. In the late afternoon they do chores in the sumo stable, which is called a “heya” in Japanese. At night they eat a big dinner and go to bed. Some say this routine makes them big and strong. If you want to have a body like a sumo wrestler, try this method! 




Mawashi is like a loincloth that wrestlers wear. The belts for practice are made of cotton. In tournaments the senior wrestlers, called Sekitori, wear a silk belt. The lower-ranking wrestlers wear a belt made of cotton. 


Guess what? It’s not allowed to wear underwear beneath mawashi at official matches, but any other matches are OK. 


【Why do sumo wrestlers throw salt into the ring】


Sumo wrestlers throw salt to purify the ring. The custom is from ancient times, when sumo was a Shinto event. 


Can you imagine how much salt they use at a sumo tournament in just one day? It’s 45kg.




Chanko-nabe is a famous sumo cuisine. It’s a type of stew where anything is put into a pot and cooked together. The most basic soup is made from chicken broth with sake and mirin flavoring. Traditionally, it is cooked by sumo wrestlers in the lower ranks. 

< Traditional Culture


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