What is Sumo? : Traditional Sports in Japan | Japan Guide

Sumo is one of the traditional icons in Japan. But not many people outside of Japan understand what actually Sumo is. Here, We introduce some knowledge about Sumo.



The rule of the Sumo bout to decide winner is quite simple. If a wrestler makes his opponent step out of the ring or touch the ground any body part except for the bottom of the feet, he will be a winner. There is no weight categories for Sumo. The average weight of the current Sumo Wrestlers is 165kg (353lbs). The heaviest is 200kg (440lbs) and the lightest is 135kg (297lbs). Usually one Sumo bout lasts less than 10 seconds.



There are six divisions for Sumo and the top rank division (Makuuchi division) is like the Major League of the baseball. The maximum 42 wrestlers in the Makuuchi division gets much more attention from fans than the wrestlers in lower division. Among the Makuuchi wrestlers, the highest rank is Yokozuna. Usually two or three Yokozuna rank wrestlers exit at the same time. Under Yokozuna, in descending order, the rank goes Ozeki, Sekiwake, Komusubi, and Maegashira. Majority of the Makuuchi wrestlers are ranked as Maegashira and they are given numbers which is sub ranking of Maegashira.



Sumo has very unique system to raise and strengthen the professional Sumo Wrestlers. The Sumo-Beya system is the one. Sumo-Beya is an organization of sumo wrestlers where they train and live. More than 40 different Sumo-Beya currently exist and all of the Sumo wrestlers must belong to one of them. Average 15 wrestlers are in one Sumo-Beya and each Sumo-Beya compete against the others to have their own wrestlers become higher rank. Except for the higher rank wrestlers, most of the wrestlers must live together in their Sumo-Beya and they don’t have their own room. Wrestlers do training in the morning and then younger wrestlers make large sized Japanese stew called Chanko-Nabe for all wresters in the Sumo-Beya. After the big lunch they take nap which is believed to grow their body.



The monthly salary of the Sumo Wrestlers is fixed according to their rank. The top rank (Yokozuna) wrestler’s monthly salary is around US$30,000. The lowest rank (Juryo) wresters get around $10,000 per month. Additionally, two-month salary is paid annually to each wrestler as bonus. There are winner’s prizes and prizes from sponsors wrestlers can obtain so a Yokozuna wrestler’s annual income could be over one million US dollars.



In every year, six Sumo tournaments take place. Three tournaments are at the Ryogoku Sumo Hall in Tokyo. These three tournaments are in January, May and September. The others are at Osaka (March), Nagoya (July) and Fukuoka (November). Each tournament lasts 15 days straight. The first bout of a day starts in the morning which is the lowest rank division match. But most people start watching from around 3 PM since the top Makuuchi division (maximum 42 wrestlers) starts around 4 PM. The final bout is done at around 6 PM. The ticket price to watch Sumo tournament per person is from 3,300 to 15,000 JPY. The seats in first floor of the Sumo Hall are mostly “Masu-Seki” which is Japanese style seating which means sitting on the floor with a cushion. The standard Masu-Seki is for 4 people and you have to purchase one box. In the Box seats you must sit cross-legged if the maximum number of people are sharing it so if you have room for the travel budget, I recommend you to buy one 4 people box sheet and use it by 2 people.