Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

Sumo at Yasukuni Shrine

April 6, 2008

Sumo at Yasukuni Shrine

This past Friday, I went to Hono-ozumo at the Yasukuni shrine near Kudanshita Station. It was a ceremonial Sumo tournament and much more. I’ve never seen Sumo live before but I’ve watched it on TV, a lot, and let me tell you that it’s pretty impressive live! The event at the Yasukuni Shrine covered everything from the blessing of the ring right through to the closing ceremony.

The event started at 9AM and ran until around 3PM. I got there a bit early and snagged a good seat – actually there are no seats so I placed my mat on the ground at a good location. As the stadium filled, the crowd was well mannered and although the facility was full everyone was friendly.

The dohyo or sumo ring is made of packed clay and consists of a square platform with a circle made of dirt-packed straw bales imbedded in its surface. The dohyo is between 34 and 60 cm. in height and the diameter of the inner circle is 4.55 meters.

We started the day with the blessing of the dohyo.

Then the junior wrestlers filed out for some practice.

Next came the Dohyo-iri, or formal ring entering ceremony, which is performed by members of the top two divisions in Sumo. Each wrestler is wearing a kesho-mawashi or ceremonial apron. These richly embroidered silk aprons can cost anywhere from 400,000 to 500,000 yen ($4,000-$5,000 USD).

In between the rankings we were treated to a a taiko drum performance and light hearted sumo skit that made me laugh out loud.

Then Yokuzuna (grand champion) Asashoryu made his entrance wearing a massive braided hemp rope that weighs between 25 to 35 pounds that is tied in an elaborate bow at the back and ornamented in the front with strips of paper hanging in zigzag patterns. The yokuzuna is attended by a senior gyoji (referee) and two other wrestlers, one carrying a ceremonial sword. Here are some shots of Yokuzuna Asashoryu:

The concluding rite of the day is the “bow dance” which became part of Sumo custom sometime during the Edo Period when a winning wrestler was awarded a prize of a bow and to express his satisfaction and appreciation performed this dance.

Let me end by saying that this was an awesome event and it will go on my calendar again next year with a big red “must do” note beside it! I’ll be sure to let you know the date so that you can join me!

Check out some more of my photos from the event on my personal blog.

Photo Credit: Personal Collection Source: Grand Sumo Home Page