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Japan Travel Guide

Sports in Japan: Sumo



Sumo is a Japanese style of wrestling and Japan's national sport. It originated in ancient times as a performance to entertain the Shinto gods. Many rituals with religious background are still followed today.

The basic rules of sumo are simple: The wrestler who either first touches the floor with something else than his sole or leaves the ring before his opponent, loses. The fights themselves usually last only a few seconds and in rare cases up to one minute or longer.

Six tournaments are held every year, each one lasting 15 days. Three of the tournaments are held in Tokyo (January, May, September), and one each in Osaka (March), Nagoya (July) and Fukuoka (November).

At the top of the sumo wrestlers' hierarchy (banzuke) stands the yokozuna (grand champion). At the moment, there are two yokozuna, Asashoryu and Hakuho, both from Mongolia. Once a wrestler reaches the rank of yokozuna, he cannot lose it anymore. However, he is expected to retire as soon as his results are starting to worsen.

Most elite wrestlers are highly trained athletes and between 20 to 35 years old. Besides working out, the wrestlers are eating large amounts of food and go to bed right after eating in order to gain mass. The wrestlers are living in special sumo stables where the rules are very strict, especially for lower ranked wrestlers.

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