Tips for Watching Sumo Wrestling in Japan - The Travel …

The 29-year-old’s landmark triumph last Friday evening was also the starkest reminder yet that the most Japanese of sports has become the domain of Mongolian wrestlers both in the ring and now the history books.

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Tips for Watching Sumo Wrestling in Japan - The …

For this reason, the organizers of sumo decided on a set of rules, including the creation of a list of 48 legal moves and the round ring that is still used today. A system of stables was created to train wrestlers.

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As many aspects of old Japan remain in sumo, such as topknots, traditional dress, and ancient customs, professional sumo is more than just a sport; it's a living example of traditional Japanese culture. The wrestlers serve as cultural ambassadors when they take part in events overseas.

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The traditional roof hangs over the sumo ring ..

Opposite the Mongolian-born yokozuna (grand champion) stood, somewhat fittingly, Japan’s top-ranked wrestler, Kisenosato, the last barrier between Hakuho and a history-making triumph.

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Hakuho returned to his corner for a third time to grab another fistful of salt, his face a picture of concentration, his eyes narrowed and focused as the crowd in Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena bristled with anticipation.

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Sumo basically took its present form in the Edo period. Matches were held to raise money to construct shrines and temples or to replace bridges, and the professional sumo wrestler was born. A sport that was once enjoyed only by the rich and powerful became popular among the masses. Sumo events were often held in Edo (now Tokyo), Osaka, and Kyoto, and the sport's popularity grew with the sales of color woodblock prints featuring sumo scenes and pictures of wrestlers. The government of the time, though, disapproved of fighting and often issued orders banning sumo.

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During the age of the samurai, physical strength was an important skill for warriors, and samurai families began to employ sumo wrestlers. It has been written that the warlord Oda Nobunaga was such a devotee of the sport that he gathered wrestlers together to hold tournaments every year.

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The History of Sumo and Wrestling

While Japanese fans bemoan a lack of local competitors at the highest level, Edo-Tokyo Museum head Makoto Takeuchi, who teaches the history of the sport to new sumo recruits, feels too much is being read into the situation.

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Nihon Sumo Kyokai Official Grand Sumo Home Page

“As a Japanese, it is regrettable that a record held by a Japanese wrestler is broken by a foreigner. This is true,” Takeuchi said. “I do not actually care about the nationality of wrestlers, as long as they make efforts to understand and learn what sumo means.”

Witness one of Japan’s most iconic cultural expressions at an exhilarating sumo tournament in Tokyo

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Sumo had been practiced by only Japanese competitors from its first organized basho (tournament) back in the 17th century until a little more than 100 years ago, when foreign-born wrestlers started to participate.