The world of Sumo wrestling is probably just about as uniquely Japanese a tradition as one can possibly find in such an active and preserved form as it still is today. While thankfully Sumo has been opened to international contestants for many years, although currently in a rather limited and racist Japanese way, its traditional Japanese quality has remained intact. Sumo is a wonderful example of historical Japanese culture for visitors to experience during a stay in Japan. Let’s find out more about Sumo so you can better understand this astonishing sport so unique in the human world.
You are likely wondering just what is the sport of Sumo wrestling and what exactly are those two rather overweight men doing with one another in a Sumo ring. One of the goals in the sport of Sumo is for one of the two men to induce the other man into either touching the ground with a part of the body other than their feet. Either that or somehow get some part of the other man’s body, including the feet, to touch the ground outside of the ring. There are allowances for the referee to declare a win to the first person to contact the ground in such a way, if both contestants both contacted almost simultaneously. This is up to the discretion of those officiating and generally based on the skill shown by both contestants prior to the final conclusion of the match. If a contestant seemed much more capable and was perceived to have been the clear winner otherwise, yet went out of bounds first, then they will possibly still be awarded the win in such a situation. Other rules include forfeiting a match if one’s loincloth-like clothing comes undone, as it could likely be a rather inappropriately revealing issue, and also forfeiting upon not showing up for the match.
Sumo matches are often rather quick and usually last only seconds in most cases. This is not always the case though, and sometimes the standoff can last for minutes as the two men struggle to topple one another. The person with the greater body mass is often victorious, which rather obviously accounts for the popularity of the rather iconic obesity in the sport of Sumo wrestling. Weight is not the only factor, however, and a good wrestler with a smaller body can still throw his weight around enough to topple a larger wrestler. This is part of what conceptually makes Sumo so exciting. That and the rather discreet gambling involving many Sumo fans make for a very excited audience at Sumo matches in Japan.
An interesting aspect of Sumo is its possible origins as a ritualistic dance of traditional Japanese animism in which it is documented that a pair of dancers would perform as a human having a wrestling match with a spirit or ghost. This is likely why, still today, the Sumo wrestling ring often has a small roof suspended above it that looks similar to the roof of a “Shinto” shrine. This also accounts for the use of salt being thrown in the ring as a purification ritual prior to a match. The official present at a Sumo match is also dressed in a costume that vaguely resembles a “Shinto” priest.
Regardless of how traditionally ritualistic its origins might be, it is a truly unique modern Japanese sport which would most definitely be entertaining during a stay in Japan. There is certainly nothing quite like it.