JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when in crowds.

Image search results - "rikishi"
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The two mikoshi portable shrines. They are carried by the two neighborhoods (Kaizu and Nishihama) during the day (1 pm - 3 pm) and in the evening. They rest from 3 pm to 5 pm.
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At 5 pm, they started to carry the mikoshi again in their neighborhoods. This local festival features men dressed as sumo wrestlers (rikishi) carrying the two mikoshi portable shrines. This is the Nishihama group.
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They wear kesho mawashi ceremonial aprons normally worn by sumo wrestlers. These aprons are possessed by local families and passed down to successive generations.
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The Nishihama (西浜) group go through their neighborhood along the shore of Lake Biwa. About 30 men carry the mikoshi.
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They shout "Yo-ya-sa-ja!." (ヨーヤサージャー). They take several rest breaks along the way.
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Now the Kaizu mikoshi group starts their way at 5 pm. They go in the opposite direction (north) from the Nishihama group. 海津
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These photos were taken from 5 pm so they look rather dark. If you want brighter photos, go during the day. But then, the festival climax is at night when they gather at the shrine.
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Three centuries ago, the Kaizu was a port for small cargo boats plying Lake Biwa to deliver goods from Hokuriku to Kyoto. Local young men working for these boats started sumo wrestling in the shrine and making these kesho mawashi aprons.
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The festival started with these young men dressed like sumo wrestlers.
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Many of the aprons have a kanji character for dragon, tiger, or other macho themes.
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Also see my YouTube video here.
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The Kaizu mikoshi proceeds along the shore of Lake Biwa, heading toward Kaizu.
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Some local people come out to watch.
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They sometimes jostle the mikoshi up and down.
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Rest break for Kaizu mikoshi.
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The Nishihama mikoshi on its way to Kaizuten Shrine.
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At Kaizuten Shrine, kids light their torches.
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One mikoshi arrives at Kaizuten Shrine.
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Another arrives at Kaizuten Shrine at about 9 pm.
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They run around the shrine with the mikoshi and shout.
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In front of a large crowd, they dramatically raise and lower the mikoshi.
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This was the climax of the Kaizu Rikishi festival.
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They did this repeatedly until they went further up the shrine.
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Also see my YouTube video here.
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Unfortunately, I had to leave to catch the last train home (after 10 pm) before the climax ended.
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I never got to see the torches with the mikoshi. For more info, call the shrine in Japanese: 0740-28-0051
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Ozeki Kotoshogiku won the Jan. 2016 sumo tournament at the Kokugikan, the first Japanese sumo wrestler to do so in 10 years.His Sadogatake Sumo Stable is in Matsudo, Chiba. On Feb. 21, 2016, they held a victory parade for Kotoshogiku in central Matsudo near Matsudo Station.
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They passed out free paper flags for Kotoshogiku's victory parade.
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The place was crowded.
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Streets along the parade route were packed four or five-row deep.
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People waited like this for an hour or so for the parade.
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In front of Matsudo Station.
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First they had presentation on stage where Kotoshogiku and his stablemaster appeared and said a few words.
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The sidewalks were so packed you could not move anywhere. Poor crowd control. But they expected only 20,000, when 55,000 showed up.
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Kotoshogiku showed his trademark back bend dubbed "Koto Bauer." Matsudo, Chiba
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The huge turnout is evidence of how much people yearned for a win by a Japanese wrestler. They all wanted him to be promoted to yokozuna.
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Too many people in front to get a good shot of the car with Kotoshogiku.
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Look at that crowd!
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Sitting on the right is the Sadogatake Stablemaster, former Kotonowaka who married the daughter of his late master former Yokozuna Kotozakura.Victory parade in Matsudo, Chiba.
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A video still in front of Matsudo Station.
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After the parade, they take down the banners.
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My short video of Ozeki Kotoshogiku's victory parade in Matsudo.
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Green Park Santo was the site for the Ozumo Maibara Basho or Maibara Exhibition Sumo Tournament on Oct. 17, 2008. It was nice sunny day. Banners with the name of famous sumo wrestlers (rikishi) were up. グリーンパーク山東
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Gate to the sumo arena. The gate opened at 8 am. The last exhibition sumo tournament held in Shiga was in 1999 in Nagahama Dome.
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Tickets please. We all got a sumo booklet with pictures of all the wrestlers.
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Arch to the sumo arena. 大相撲米原場所
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Two sumo wrestlers near the gate greeted spectators. The sumo contingent's stop in Maibara was part of their autumn exhibition tour. The day before, they were in Noto, Ishikawa Pref.
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Taiko drummer added atmosphere.
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The sumo arena was under a large tent. The ground was covered by a blue, vinyl tarp.
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Arena layout and ticket prices. The cheapest ticket was 4,000 yen and the most expensive near ringside was 14,000 yen.
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Sumo souvenir shops and food stalls.
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Sumo souvenirs
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Zabuton cushions with "Maibara Basho" imprinted were also sold for 1100 yen.
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Day's bouts.
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Miyabiyama stands near the entrance gate to sign autographs.
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Outside the tent arena was a grassy area where the rikishi warmed up. About 160 rikishi were in the tournament.
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Push-ups
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Mt. Ibuki in the background.
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Baruto from Estonia and Tochinoshin from Georgia chat with each other (probably in Russian).
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First the lower ranking Makushita wrestlers practiced on the ring.
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Banners above written with "Maibara Basho" and "Full House." It actually wasn't sold out.
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Later, the top division Makunouchi wrestlers started practice. They wear white mawashi belts.
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Ozeki Kotomitsuki practicing.
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One benefit of exhibition tournaments is that the rikishi are able to practice with different wrestlers from different stables.
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Baruto practicing.
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Kotooshu
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Maibara basho zabuton cushions
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai works out and gives a great photo op.
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai works out.
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai 大関千代大海
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Ozeki Kotomitsuki signs autographs.
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Ozeki Kotomitsuki 大関琴光喜
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Baruto signs autographs. This is something we cannot do during official sumo tournaments.
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Kisenosato signs autographs. He's quite popular with the ladies.
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Finally, Yokozuna Hakuho appears. At first, his tsukebito attendants declined autographs. But when a lady following him asked for an autograph, he stopped and said okay.
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A large crowd instantly formed around Hakuho.
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Yokozuna Hakuho signs autographs. Unfortunately, Yokozuna Asashoryu was in Mongolia recovering from an injury.
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A relaxing day at sumo. Notice the seat numbers written on the vinyl sheet. Four seats per "box" called masu-seki.
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At 11 am, it was sumo with the little kids. Here's Takamisakari. 人気力士とちびっ子の稽古
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Takamisakari swings around the helpless young boy.
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高見盛
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In the end, the kid pushed out Takamisakari.
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Baruto and kid.
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Baruto also flies the kid around.
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Up you go...
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Ha-ha, I pushed you out...
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Upsy daisy
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Around 21 kids from Shiga got to push around these rikishi.
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Chiyotaikai and kid
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West side
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Hanamichi to the sumo ring
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From 11:40 am, sumo matches began. Started with the Makushita wrestlers. (Notice their black mawashi belt.)
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Makushita match
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About 1,800 people attended the sumo tournament.
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A comedic sumo called shokkiri. 初切
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Comedic sumo. It actually takes quite a bit of practice to put on comedic sumo, another thing we don't normally see during regular tournaments.
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Boxing
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Singing sumo jinku songs. 相撲甚句
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At around 1 pm, the Ring-entering ceremony by Juryo wrestlers on the east side. 十両土俵入り
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Dohyo-iri Ring-entering ceremony by Juryo wrestlers on the east side.
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Dohyo-iri Ring-entering ceremony by Juryo wrestlers on the west side.
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Dohyo-iri Ring-entering ceremony by Juryo wrestlers on the west side.
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Taiko drumming demonstration. 檜太鼓打分け
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Rikishi waiting his turn to go in.
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Sumo wrestler's hairstyle.
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Ozeki Kotomitsuki
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Ozeki Kaio
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai says, "Sorry, no time for more autographs."
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Yokozuna Hakuho and his yokozuna rope to be put around him by his attendants.
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Yokozuna Hakuho and his yokozuna rope belt.
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Yokozuna Hakuho waits to enter the sumo ring.
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Yokozuna Hakuho's yokozuna rope is held by his attendant wearing white gloves.
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Demonstration of putting on the yokozuna rope belt on Yokozuna Hakuho.
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This is something we don't seeing during regular grand sumo tournaments held every other month in Tokyo (3 times), Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka.
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Pulling it tight.
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This is the Shiranui style with two loops in the back. The rope has a wire core to stiffen the rope. 横綱白鵬 不知火型
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He faced all four directions before stepping down from the ring.
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Picture-taking with Maibara mayor.
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Yokozuna Hakuho rests until it's time for his dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony. Behind is Mt. Ibuki.
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At around 1:30 pm, the Makunouchi dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony is held. This is the east side.
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Takamisakari carried a little boy (crying) from Maibara during the ring-entering ceremony.
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony.
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Baruto
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony on the west side.
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Chiyotaikai and Kotooshu
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony on the west side.
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Now the Yokozuna dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony.
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They set up up to the ring.
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Yokozuna Hakuho performs the yokozuna dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony.
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Yokozuna Hakuho performs the yokozuna dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony.
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Yokozuna Hakuho performs the yokozuna dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony. 横綱白鵬
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The Shiranui style has both arms extended outward when going up. 横綱白鵬 不知火型の土俵入り
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Now the top-division Makunouchi wrestlers start to fight. The judges enter. This is former Ozeki Kirishima.
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Tosanoumi
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Kokkai (left)
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Takamisakari
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Takamisakari does his robocop routine.
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Takamisakari wins. He declined to sign any autographs, and just ran back to the dressing room. He must be tired of being mobbed all the time.
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Miyabiyama sits in a spectator seat as he waits his turn.
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Baruto flashes the peace sign to a photographer.
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Baruto is a big guy. He's Ozeki material. (Currently Komusubi.)
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Baruto shares a laugh.
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Homasho had very smooth skin.
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Ozeki Kotomitsuki signs autographs.
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Ozeki Kotomitsuki is interviewed.
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Referee
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Inside the sumo arena. It was pretty full.
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Kisenosato
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Sanyaku (top three ranking wrestlers) wrestlers: Ama, Hakuho, and Kaio.
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Sanyaku wrestlers: Kotomitsuki, Chiyotaikai, and Kotooshu.
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Ama is the winner. In Nov. 2008, he was promoted to Ozeki and was renamed Harumafuji.
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Kaio vs. Kotooshu
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Kaio vs. Kotooshu
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Hakuho vs. Kotomitsuki, the last bout of the day.
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Hakuho vs. Kotomitsuki
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Hakuho vs. Kotomitsuki
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Hakuho won
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Yumitorishiki 弓取式
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After it ended, the wrestlers rode on these buses. The next stop was Kyoto. Their autumn exhibition tour lasting till Oct. 26 would then take them to Tokushima, Kochi, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi Prefectures.
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Maibara Basho sumo booklet.
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Grand sumo tournaments are held six times a year in Jan., March, May, July, Sept., and Nov. They are held at Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo in Jan., May, and Sept. In March, it is in Osaka, July in Nagoya, and Nov. in Fukuoka. This is the Kokugikan.
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Each tournament is 15 days long, and each wrestler in the top two divisions wrestle once a day. A wrestler must win at least 8 times during a tournament to get promoted. Otherwise, he is demoted in rank. The more he wins, the higher he is promoted.
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There are about 800 sumo wrestlers, called rikishi, and they belong to one of six divisions. Each day of the tournament starts in the morning with the lower divisions as you see here. They are skinnier and wear drab-looking black mawashi.
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The sumo matches have five judges (shinpan), dressed in formal black kimono, sitting on each of the four sides of the sumo ring. There is also a referee (gyoji) on the ring. This is former yokozuna Takanohana who has lost much weight and looks like a kid.
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One colorful highlight each day during a tournament is the dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony performed by rikishi in the top two divisions. These are rikishi in the second highest division called Juryo. 十両
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Juryo wrestlers performing the ring-entering ceremony.
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The wrestlers are divided into east and west, and both groups perform the dohyo-iri. They wear colorful ceremonial aprons called kesho mawashi made of silk. They can cost up to 500,000 yen.
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You can see sumo for as cheap as 2100 yen. You can buy tickets at the box office where the tournament is held. The cheap tickets may sell out, so go early.
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JUryo wrestlers continue to fight.
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This is Hakurozan, who was arrested for drug use in 2008 and booted out of sumo along with his brother Roho.
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On the first day of the tournament, the chairman of the Japan Sumo Association (shown here is Kitanoumi) and top rikishi go on the ring to convey greetings to the crowd.
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The chairman of the Japan Sumo Association (shown here is Kitanoumi) greets the crowd and thanks everyone for coming.
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Next we have the ring-entering ceremony by the top division wrestlers in the Makunouchi Division. Rikishi from the east side come down the aisle first. They are led by a referee.
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They enter as wooden clappers are clapped by someone.
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The colorful kesho mawashi are expensive to make, and each wrestler has a sponsor who donates an apron. The sponsor's name is usually on the bottom.
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The higher ranking rikishi are at the end of the line. (Hakuho and Kotooshu here).
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They make their way around the ring.
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The sumo tournaments are broadcast live every day on TV by NHK, focusing on the Makunouchi Division matches.
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After the last wrestler is on the ring, they all turn around and raise their arms.
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Getting off the sumo ring.
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Ozeki Kotooshu.
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Ozeki Kotooshu with an apron by Bulgaria Yogurt. (Kotooshu is from Bulgaria.)
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Next are rikishi from the west side.
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Takamisakari is one of the more popular rikishi.
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Unfortunately, there are people ignorant of sumo who think it is just nearly naked, fat men charging at each other. Famous American newspaper columnist Mike Royko once wrote one of the worse and most insulting pieces about sumo in his column.
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During a sumo exhibition tour in the US, first lady Nancy Reagan rejected having the yokozuna ring-entering ceremony performed in the Rose Garden of the White House. It was performed at the State Department instead with Secretary George Schultz attending.
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Fortunately, there are many people who do appreciate sumo, like former French president Jacques Chirac. (THe current French president has no interest in sumo.)
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Wrestlers wait until everyone is on the ring. Notice that Takamisakari (second from the left) and the rikishi on the far right have almost the same aprons. They will serve as the sword bearer and dew sweeper for the yokozuna ring-entering ceremony.
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Some of the designs on the aprons are quite beautiful. Some are also pretty much advertisements for the sponsor who could be a support group, fan club, company, or rich individual.
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Roho's apron actually had little lights which flashed.
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Hakuho, before he became yokozuna.
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Baruto, from Estonia, at the center. He's well on his way to become Ozeki. There are many foreign sumo wrestlers. Unfortunately, there are none from Hawaii. Mostly Europeans and Mongolians.
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Right after the Makunouchi dohyo-iri is the Yokozuna Dohyo-iri. This is Yokozuna Asashoryu. A major highlight during the tournament.
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The yokozuna is flanked by two attendants, a sword bearer on the left and dew sweeper on the right. Their kesho mawashi ceremonial aprons are a matching set.
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He claps his hands to get the attention of the gods. 横綱土俵入り
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He extends his arms to show that he conceals no weapons. I'm not too crazy about the way Asashoryu does the dohyo-iri though. A few little details make it less dignified.
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Then he steps forward and turns to the front.
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He claps his hands and stomps his foot.
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He stomps the ground to drive away evil.
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Asashoryu performing the yokozuna dohyo-iri or ring-entering ceremony. There are two styles of the yokozuna dohyo-iri. One is the Unryu style which Asashoryu performs. One hand is on his hip as he rises here. 雲龍型
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The ring-entering ceremony starts at around 4 pm. The yokozuna's rope belt and zig-zag paper streamers look very similar to the sacred rope found at Shinto shrines.
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He turns around and goes back to his place. You can see that his rope belt is tied with a single loop on the back. This is the Unryu style. It differs from the Shiranui style performed by Hakuho.
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Claps his hands for the last time. The man in purple is the referee.
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The two rikishi who escort him are either from his own sumo stable or an affiliate sumo stable.
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The yokozuna dohyo-iri ends. It is performed every day during the 15-day tournament as well as at exhibition tournaments.
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Side view of Asashoryu's dohyo-iri. Looks like we'll have to wait a lot longer to ever see another Japanese yokozuna. No one is even on the horizon as of this writing. The next yokozuna might as well be another foreigner (Baruto perhaps).
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Yokozuna Hakuho from Mongolia performs the dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony in Jan. 2013.
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Yokozuna Hakuho
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