Japanese Culture Teaching Notes



Sumo is Japan's national sport and it has been since 1909. In Sumo the two participants face each other just wearing the special sumo loincloth. They battle each other trying to knock each other out of the sumo ring. Sumo is very popular in Japan and can been seen on TV and listed to on the radio. There are 6 professional sumo tournaments a year. In sumo there is much rituals that are involved in the matches. Recently there has been many foreigners allowed to participate in sumo from places such as Hawaii and Mongolia.

Origin of Sumo
A ccording to Japanese legend the very origin of the Japanese race depended on the outcome of a sumo match. The supremacy of the Japanese people on the islands of Japan was supposedly established when the god, Take-mikazuchi, won a sumo bout with the leader of a rival tribe. Apart from legend, however, sumo is an ancient sport dating back some 1500 years.

Its origins were religious. The first sumo matches were a form of ritual dedicated to the gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest and were performed together with sacred dancing and dramas within the precincts of the shrines.
In the Nara Period(The 8th century)sumo was introduced into the ceremonies of the Imperial Court. A wrestling festival was held annually which included music and dancing in which the victorious wrestlers participated. Early sumo was a rough-and-tumble affair combining elements of boxing and wrestling with few or no holds barred. But under the continued patronage of the Imperial Court rules were formulated and techniques developed so that it came more nearly to resemble the sumo of today.

A military dictatorship was established in Kamakura in 1192 and a long period of intense warfare ensued. Sumo, quite naturally, was regarded chiefly for its military usefulness and as a means of increasing the efficiency of the fighting men. Later in the hands of the samurai, jujitsu was developed as an offshoot of sumo. Peace was finally restored when the different warring factions were united under the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603. A period of prosperity followed, marked by the rise to power of the new mercantile classes.
Professional sumo groups were organized to entertain the rapidly expanding plebeian class and sumo came into its own as the national sport of Japan. The present Japan Sumo Association has its origins in these groups first formed in the Edo Period.

In olden times, sumo tournaments were held twice a year in shrines and temples for a week or 10 days, although the allotted time was some-times extended because of inclement weather. The first permanent Koku-gikan opened in 1909 in the Ryogoku section of Tokyo next to the Ekoin Temple, which was the site of the outdoor basho from about 1808 to 1906. Actually, it was first called the Josetsukan, but it was soon renamed the Kokugikan. It cost 500,000 yen (a goodly sum in those days) to build. It was in this original sumo hall that such great yokozuna as Hitachiyama and Tachiyama performed. Except for a single loss after his 45th consec-utive win, Tachiyama would have won 100 bouts in a row since he went on to win his next 55 matches.

The original Kokugikan served well for eight years until it burned down in November 1917 and it wasn't until January 1920 that the new one was ready for use. In the meantime, the hon-basho were held in the compound of Yasukuni Shrine. Despite damage by the 1923 Tokyo earth-quake and World War II bombings, this second Kokugikan survived until it was finally torn down in 1983. The Sumo Kyokai, however, stopped using it as a sumo arena with the completion of the Kuramae Kokugikan in 1957. During those 37 years, it witnessed the exploits of such great yokozuna as Tochigiyama, who stopped Tachiyama's winning streak, and Tsunenohana in the 1920s, Tamanishiki and Futabayama, who set one of greatest records in sumo with 69 consecutive wins, in the1930s and Tochinishiki in the 1950s.

Part of the roof of the second Kokugikan was destroyed during the fire-bombing raids of March 10-11, 1945, but it survived. After the Allied Occupation authorities gave permission for the Sumo Kyokai to hold a hon-basho therein November 1945, they took it over and turned it into an ice-skating rink. Although the Kyokai was allowed to hold the 1946 November Tournament there, it wasn't able to reclaim uninterrupted use of the Kokugikan again until just before the Occupation ended in April 1952.

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