To ask if sumo wrestling’s more of a sport, an art, or a tradition’s kinda pointless – it’s a mix of all 3.
The sumo calendar
Every sumo fan’s year revolves around the seasonal tournaments – either watching it in person, or on TV. Having those tourney dates already in a calendar when you buy it helps a lot.
Some sports don’t have an official calendar. Teams do, maybe, but not that sport as a whole. And not all sports calendars show that year’s schedule – maybe there’s no info when it goes to print, or the design doesn’t leave space for detail. But with sumo, you always know.
The sumo dictionary
What does ‘hatakikomi’ mean? Find out – as long as you can read Japanese.
This isn’t a Japanese-English dictionary, which is a shame. But for anyone who knows their kanji and kana, it does explain sumo history, traditions, and wrestling moves (including ‘kimarite’ winning moves) in more detail.
There’s a word for nearly everything, including this stuff:
- Ashi-tori – lifting your opponent’s leg to mess with his balance
- Fusensho – winning by default ’cause your opponent didn’t show up
- Koshi-kudake – winning ’cause your opponent fell over… by himself
- Oshi-dashi – using both hands to shove your opponent out the ring
- Tsukami-nage – lifting your opponent by the belt, then dropping them
P.S. – ‘hatakikomi’ means ‘pulling your opponent down to the floor of the ring by the head, neck, or shoulders’.
Sumo trading cards
In the same way you’d collect baseball cards, you can gather up a training dojo’s worth of wrestler cards. You’ll see them called ‘menko’ in some places, so look out for those as well.
In one way or another, sumo cards have been around for hundreds of years. So if you’re just starting out as a collector, you’ve got a lot to catch up on. One of the most well-known checklists for menko and other cards is over 350 pages long at this point.
Look hard enough, and you might find some special cards with gimmicks. We heard there was a ‘scratch and sniff’ series, with cards that smelled like sumo hair wax. Not totally sure if want.
Yahoo! Auctions Japan is a popular place to find items featuring retired wrestlers. The Japan Sumo Association holds the rights to names/images for active sumo, and stops making their merch when they step down. At that point, both the rarity and price of those items starts to go up.
Banzuke (ranking sheets)
A handy list of the current ranking for all sumo, published just before an upcoming tournament. There’s a limit to the number of sumo that can hold certain ranks, so changes at those levels get fans hyped for the next basho. Who’s the next ozeki, or yokozuna? Who’s gonna eat dirt?
As the rankings change every time, the banzuke sheet for any 1 tournament’s a collector’s item. And sumo fans have lots of fun guessing what’s gonna be on the next one. We say ‘fun’ – people go insane trying to work out the right order before it’s officially released.
There are 2 types of banzuke: the painstakingly hand-written chart version, and the (more fun to look at) picture version showing each sumo’s ‘kesho-mawashi’ apron design.
Tegata (signed wrestler hand prints)
Ever wanted to see how your hand size compares to a sumo’s? Get their autograph. A sumo signature’s as unique as a fingerprint, ’cause it includes all their fingers and their palm.
Sumo wrestlers at the higher (more popular) ranks stamp their hand on tens, or hundreds, of sheets of paper to use as tegata. They learn to get quicker at it over time – maybe even this quick.
Real ink-stamped ones can be almost impossible to find, depending on the sumo, ’cause they’re not sold publicly. Original tegata prints are handed out personally by the wrestler/stable, to select groups of people – and those people aren’t always reselling.
To be fair, would you let go of something that cool?
Reprints get made in (way bigger) bulk to meet demand. Those are what you’re gonna see on sale more often.
Sumo wrestler figures
Remember what we said about the JSA owning faces? Figs of current sumo wrestlers on sale now should – should – look realistic. Look at one compared to a photo of the real deal, and… YMMV.
Only the highest-ranking sumo are honoured with mini figures. They’re ‘faithful, detailed representations of the body and facial expression’. Well, that’s what the item description says (the same wording, for all of them). You can’t deny that’s a sumo, but which sumo?