JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when traveling.


Most viewed - Sumo 相撲
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Sumo match with kids1866 viewsA retirement ceremony for an important sumo wrestler includes a variety of activities besides the actual ceremony of cutting away the topknot. It involves almost the entire Japan Sumo Association, and most wrestlers in the top three divisions (Makushita, Juryo, and Makunouchi) also appear in exhibition matches.
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Snip by Yokozuna Asashoryu and a symbolic passing of the baton from one foreign yokozuna to the next (and only) foreign yokozuna.1401 viewsMongolia's Golden Age of Sumo has begun.
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Yokozuna Musashimaru1241 viewsHis last dohyo-iri.
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Musashimaru's final dohyo-iri1226 views
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Asashoryu sips water offered by Ozeki Chiyotaikai1095 viewsAs soon as Asashoryu entered the arena, many wrestlers went up to him to offer water as a show of respect.
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Asashoryu and Tochiazuma1034 viewsAfter offering water, Tochiazuma shares a laugh with the yokozuna.
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Musashimaru right after I shook his hand.969 views
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Kumu hula Sonny Ching beats the ipu gourd drum, a traditional Hawaiian instrument. This must be a first, a kumu hula performing on the sumo ring in Japan.911 views
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Final match of the day with Yokozuna Asashoryu902 views
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The final cut by stablemaster Musashigawa Oyakata.895 views
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Friends after all864 viewsKyokushuzan chats with fellow Mongolian Asashoryu.
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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.790 views
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770 viewsA retirement ceremony for an important sumo wrestler includes a variety of activities besides the actual ceremony of cutting away the topknot. It involves almost the entire Japan Sumo Association, and most wrestlers in the top three divisions (Makushita, Juryo, and Makunouchi) also appear in exhibition matches.
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Takamisakari for butsuri keiko749 viewsEverybody cheered whenever he entered the ring.
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The Kokugikan as seen from JR Ryogoku Station platform.748 views
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Musashigawa Stable wrestler wearing Aloha-print yukata737 viewsFlowery pattern (plumeria) with "Musashimaru" imprinted.
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Sumo ring (dohyo). A new sumo ring is constructed for every tournament. See sumo tournament photos here.729 views
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Musashimaru and his flowers721 viewsThis was his last appearance at this retirement ceremony.
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"Robocop" Takamisakari gets ready712 viewsThe top-division Makunouchi wrestlers went through their matches quickly.
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Konishiki also sings. (His company arranged the entertainment.)708 views
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Snip and a hug by Konishiki (Question: Where was Akebono??)648 views
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Former yokozuna Taiho, Takanosato, Kotozakura, and Wakanohana watch intently.647 views
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PR poster, painting by Lynn Matsuoka. Also see my photos of Akebono's Retirement Ceremony.629 views
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Crazy sumo fan608 viewsThey also sold the real banzuke for 50 yen.
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Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena as seen from Ryogoku Station602 views
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Tying the rope at the back.602 views
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Musashimaru minus his topknot594 views
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Hawaii's last sumo wrestler shakes hands.585 viewsIf he were married, his wife would be beside him.
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He was grim-faced all throughout580 views
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Rear view of the shiranui style of tying the rope.574 viewsHe turned in all four directions to show everyone what it looked like. This is what is called the shiranui style of tying the rope. It is characterized by a single loop in the back. The other style, called unryu, has twin loops.1 comments
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Snip by Musashimaru's brother568 views
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The bow twirler is a Makushita Division wrestler (third highest division). Afterward, the entire sumo ring is covered with a cloth. Also see my Kokugikan photos here.562 views
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Signboard for retirement ceremony at entrance.560 viewsIt reads "Musashimaru, Intai Danpatsu Hiroo Ozumo" which means "Musashimaru Topknot-Cutting and Retirement Sumo Exhibition."
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Konishiki is called and he enters560 views
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But his mom cannot step on the sumo ring...560 viewsFemales are prohibited from entering the sumo ring. Barring women from stepping onto the sumo ring, even to give an award to a wrestler, is one of the most blatant and preposterous forms of sexual discrimination in Japan. It was devised centuries ago, and for the sake of tradition, traditionalists in the sumo world have maintained this extremely absurd custom and belief that women are considered to be impure (due to menstruation). I'm not saying this as a gaijin (foreigner) who likes to criticize Japan or the Japanese. Nor am I saying this as a women's rights advocate. I say this from the standpoint of plain, old common sense.

Up to 1909, women were actually not allowed enter a sumo arena to view sumo matches. And once upon a time, women were prohibited from setting foot on sacred Mt. Fuji. Can you imagine if these traditions were still being practiced today?

Such discriminatory practices were abolished long ago, and here we are in the 21st century with women still unable to step into the sumo ring. The Japan Sumo Association has constantly rejected requests from important female ministers in the Prime Minister's Cabinet to give an award to the tournament winner in the sumo ring.
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They wrap the rope around his waist from the front, or the thickest part of the rope.558 viewsThis was a demonstration on how they tie on the thick, white rope (tsuna) around his waist. The tsuna is the symbol of the yokozuna. It takes several assistants to put it on. They are all wearing white gloves.
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More blood relatives (or brothers)552 views
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Me next please!!!546 viewsThe winner gets to decide who to wrestle next. The rikishi all beg to be picked.
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Snip by stablemate Ozeki Musoyama536 views
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Box seats. Cramped space for four people.526 views
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Comic sumo (shokkiri sumo)525 viewsThis is comedy time with two young wrestlers performing various comical antics (spitting at each other, kicking, and other illegal sumo acts) on the ring.
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517 views
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Nephews give a flower bouquet (they can step on the sumo ring)517 views
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Pulling it tight515 views
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Sumo wrestler's hairstyle.515 views
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Ozeki Musoyama is defeated.514 views
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Musashimaru's final dohyo-iri506 views
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Musashimaru finally appears for a yokozuna belt demo504 views
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Snip by Kitanoumi, the head of the Japan Sumo Association504 views
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Oh, I gotta take a picture of this...503 viewsLook at the gyoji referee who must be thinking, "C'mon, hurry up!"
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His mom is next...501 views
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Yumitori-shiki bow-twirling ceremony499 views
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Musashimaru's final dohyo-iri497 views
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Comic sumo (shokkiri sumo)496 viewsThis is comedy time with two young wrestlers performing various comical antics (spitting at each other, kicking, and other illegal sumo acts) on the ring.
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Bow twirling (called Yumitori-shiki) is the final ceremony at the end of the tournament day which is around 6 pm. 492 views
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Musashimaru's final dohyo-iri491 viewsHe could have had Yokozuna Asashoryu be either the sword bearer or dew sweeper, but he chose to have his stablemates to join his final dohyo-iri.
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Giant painted pictures of Musashimaru decorating the arena inside. Each one commemorates a tournament victory.490 viewsThese giant pictures are actually black-and-white photographs taken in a photo studio and printed on large paper. Then it is hand-painted in color by a woman who has been doing it for years.
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Makushita sumo match489 viewsLower-division wrestlers wear black belts, while the upper division wrestlers wear white belts (during practice) or colored belts during official matches.
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The End of Hawaii's Golden Age in sumo. For the first time since 1968, no wrestler from Hawaii is in the top Makunouchi division.488 views
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Musashimaru acknowledges a spectator as he proceeds to the ring.483 viewsThis was a demonstration on how they tie on the thick, white rope (tsuna) around his waist. The tsuna is the symbol of the yokozuna. It takes several assistants to put it on. They are all wearing white gloves.
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The scissors (golden)481 viewsI think it was given by French President Chirac who is a sumo fan.
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Practice479 views
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More people than the real tournament478 viewsAbout 8,000 people took time out from their Golden Week holidays to see this official sumo practice of all sumo stables.
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The first snip. Also see the video at YouTube.477 views
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Sumo jinku464 viewsThey are singing sumo jinku, a chant-like song about sumo and sumo wrestlers. They are singing about Musashimaru and his career.
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Musashimaru greets the crowd459 views
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Panoramic shot of the Kokugikan458 viewsNotice the upper floor was quite empty, similar to Akebono's retirement ceremony.
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Musashigawa stablemaster (former Yokozuna Mienoumi) in the entrance hall455 viewsInside the entrance hallway, there was a long table on the left side with ribbons which served as name tags for distinguished guests. Musashigawa is the name of Musashimaru's sumo stable.
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Musashimaru's final dohyo-iri ends455 views
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The Bulgarian (Kotooshu) on the left453 views
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Asashoryu joins in452 views1 comments
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Exiting the building452 views
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He performs his last yokozuna dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony. He is flanked by Musoyama on the left as the sword bearer, and Miyabiyama on the right as the dew sweeper.450 views
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444 views
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Yokozuna "tsuna" belt demo442 views
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Snip by actor Hiroshi Fujioka, who played Kamen Rider in the '70s.441 views
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The yobidashi changes once in a while. Dressed in black and sitting as one of the judges is former yokozuna Chiyonofuji, now Kokonoe oyakata.439 views
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Awaiting the final cut as we listen to one of his famous matches.438 views
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Hairdressing demonstration432 views
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It is really good! Different flavors are offered during different days of the tournament. Top is shoyu (soy sauce) flavor, and bottom is salt flavor. Miso flavor is also offered.426 views
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The kids gradually get bigger.424 views
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Both ozeki watch423 views
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Snip by singer Shigeru Matsuzaki418 viewsFamous for his classic hit, "Ai no Memory."
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Asashoryu in the face-off416 views
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Male hula dancer at one corner414 viewsThe original plan was for the hula dancers to perform on the ring itself. But at the last minute, Musashimaru decided that it was not appropriate so they danced outside the ring.
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Butsuri keiko409 views
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Musashimaru doll405 views
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Asashoryu later won405 views
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The thrown cushions are hastily piled up at ringside.405 views
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Head supporter speaks404 views
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Musashimaru goes back and then comes back...397 views
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri397 views
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This is the lower level with zabuton box seats costing over 10,000 yen.396 views
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri394 viewsNext was exhibition sumo matches by the top-division Makunouchi wrestlers. Musashimaru never appeared again.
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The retirement ceremony had a lot of Hawaiian touches. This was only the beginning.393 viewsHula dancers and live Hawaiian band from Hawaii.
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Calling Musashimaru (with a conch shell)390 views
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Yokozuna Asashoryu performs his dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony390 views
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This must be a first, a kumu hula (hula teacher) from Hawaii performing on the sumo ring.385 viewsHe is Sonny Ching, a well-known hula teacher in Hawaii. He brought four male hula dancers who danced at the four corners of the ring.
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Panorama shot of sumo arena during a sumo tournament. There are two levels.385 views
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In the entrance hall, hula and Hawaiian music direct from Hawaii380 views
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Asashoryu gets thrown375 views
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Here he comes...375 views
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The chair374 views
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Takamisakari wins373 views
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He goes back to the dressing room372 views
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Also see the video at YouTube.370 views
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364 views
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A "darn it" look on his face364 views
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Giant portrait of Yokozuna Akebono363 viewsThese are B/W photographs painted over with oil.
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Ready to pounce on the winner362 views
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Juryo sumo match362 views
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361 views
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Juryo Division dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony359 views
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Asashoryu exchanges a few words356 viewsAfter the practice was over at 11 am, the sole yokozuna went over to the council.
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Sumo exhibition matches with lower division Makushita wrestlers.353 viewsA retirement ceremony for an important sumo wrestler includes a variety of activities besides the actual ceremony of cutting away the topknot. It involves almost the entire Japan Sumo Association, and most wrestlers in the top three divisions (Makushita, Juryo, and Makunouchi) also appear in exhibition matches.
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Asashoryu greets the council upon entry352 views
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Makunochi dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony351 views
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350 views
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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348 views
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Upper level and VIP booth.347 views
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The ceremony opens with taiko drum beating on the sumo ring.342 views
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Maibara Basho sumo booklet.342 views
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Upper level and giant sumo portraits of 32 past tournament winners. As of Jan. 2012, there are no portraits of Japanese sumo wrestlers. Only foreigners.341 views
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri340 views
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Asashoryu collects a big paycheck.340 views
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Musashimaru souvenirs at the Kokugikan's souvenir shop339 views
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338 views
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Laying the red carpet for the main event.334 views
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Sumo scoreboard. The names of all the wrestlers are displayed in the order of the sumo matches (from right to left). The winner is indicated with a red lamp. Names of sumo wrestlers absent from the tournament (due to injury, etc.) are listed on the far le334 views
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Yobidashi wearing Aloha-print garb330 views
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Giant portrait of Yokozuna Musashimaru329 views
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Sumo ring and suspended roof (no pillars).327 views
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Musashigawa Stable wrestlers greet visitors325 viewsIncludes Miyabiyama and Musoyama.
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Makunouchi dohyo-iri325 views
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Finish, everybody out please...322 views
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320 views
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I'm waiting...318 views
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Giant portrait of Yokozuna Takanohana318 views
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Musashimaru merchandise313 views
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Entrance hall is clogged up by a side show of hula.310 views
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Break306 viewsAsashoryu took a water break between each practice bout.
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Giant portrait of Yokozuna Asashoryu306 views
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Tidying up the ring299 views
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Ama, another Mongolian and now Yokozuna Harumafuji. The Mongolians are taking over the top echelons of sumo dominated by foreigners. We haven't had a Japanese yokozuna since 2003.299 views
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Musashimaru at the entrance298 views
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Taiko drum demonstration295 views
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Sumo figurines.290 views
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Yokozuna Deliberation Council members288 viewsIn the middle is Kitanoumi.
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VIP booth or "Royal Box" where the Emperor and Empress (or Crown Prince and Princess) or head of state watch sumo.286 views
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Baruto from Estonia and Tochinoshin from Georgia chat with each other (probably in Russian).285 views
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Hakuho collects his pay.283 views
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Shinto-style roof. If the house is full, the "Full House" banners are rolled down above the roof. (Now rolled up.)282 views
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Sumo elders in the front row281 views
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Upper level seats.281 views
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Crowd outside the Kokugikan await their favorite wrestlers.278 views
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Takamisakari swings around the helpless young boy.277 views
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Box seat for two.275 views
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Ozeki Kotomitsuki 大関琴光喜267 views
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261 views
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Ozeki Kotomitsuki261 views
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Baruto also flies the kid around.258 views
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Kisenosato signs autographs. He's quite popular with the ladies.257 views
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Musoyama (in Sept. 2004).256 views
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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.255 views
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The striking yokozuna upset makes the crowd go wild as they throw zabuton cushions in glee.255 views
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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.251 views
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He stomps the ground to drive away evil.247 views
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Passing out programs244 views
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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.242 views
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai240 views
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Crowd enters the Kokugikan for Musashimaru's retirement ceremony on Oct. 2, 2004.236 views
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai says, "Sorry, no time for more autographs."236 views
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Baruto shares a laugh. 234 views
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Door to arena.233 views
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai 大関千代大海232 views
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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.230 views
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai230 views
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228 views
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Lecture classroom (previously used as a dining room for chanko-nabe during tournaments). 相撲教習所226 views
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Rikishi waiting his turn to go in.223 views
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Baruto signs autographs. This is something we cannot do during official sumo tournaments.222 views
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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.221 views
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A large crowd instantly formed around Hakuho.218 views
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Yumitorishiki 弓取式218 views
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Kokugikan ticket office (right). Ticket prices range from 2,100 yen to 14,300 yen.217 views
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Homasho had very smooth skin.216 views
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Entrance lobby. At the end of the lobby is a trophy showcase. On the last day of the tournament, the tournament winner will walk through here to his car for a victory parade amid a large crowd.215 views
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Yokozuna Hakuho rests until it's time for his dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony. Behind is Mt. Ibuki.215 views
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Ozeki Kotomitsuki signs autographs.214 views
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Sumo wrestlers enter through a side entrance. Fans wait for their favorite wrestlers.213 views
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At the gate, you might see a famous former wrestler (like former Takamiyama from Hawaii, now Stablemaster Azumazeki) taking your ticket.212 views
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Kokugikan ticket office. Cheap tickets costing 2,100 yen are sold every day of the tournament, but sell out fast by noon or so.211 views
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Yokozuna Hakuho and his yokozuna rope belt.211 views
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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211 views
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Kotooshu sits on his own cushion at ringside before his bout.210 views
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The chairman of the Japan Sumo Association (shown here is Kitanoumi) greets the crowd and thanks everyone for coming.208 views
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He claps his hands to get the attention of the gods. 横綱土俵入り208 views
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Way to Kokugikan. The guarded side gate on the right is for sumo wrestlers.206 views
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Yokozuna Hakuho waits to enter the sumo ring.205 views
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Hakuho vs. Kotomitsuki203 views
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Sumo mural in lobby.202 views
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Ozeki Chiyotaikai works out.202 views
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Takamisakari carried a little boy (crying) from Maibara during the ring-entering ceremony.202 views
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Hakuho won202 views
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Corridor and souvenir shops.200 viewsA corridor encircles the arena.
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Baruto flashes the peace sign to a photographer.200 views
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Yokozuna Hakuho's yokozuna rope is held by his attendant wearing white gloves.197 views
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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196 views
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The sign reads "Physical body, Technique, Heart." What you need to succeed in sumo.194 views
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Nameplates of tournament winners on Emperor's Cup193 views
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Yokozuna Hakuho performs the yokozuna dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony. 横綱白鵬193 views
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Kokugikan192 views
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Sumo Museum. Open only during tournament days. Free admission.190 viewsThe wall on the left show portraits of all the yokozuna in the modern era.
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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.189 views
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Sumo wrestler and sumo stable banners187 views
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The tournament winner receives numerous prizes from various organizations and companies.186 views
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Next to the chanko dining room is a sumo ring for practice and deliberation exhibition matches.185 views
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Trophy case in lobby. This is the Emperor's Cup awarded to the tournament winner.184 views
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Kokkai means "Black Sea."184 views
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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.183 views
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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.182 views
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The higher ranking rikishi are at the end of the line. (Hakuho and Kotooshu here).181 views
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Taiko drum tower180 views
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Hakuho throws salt on the sumo ring.179 views
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If you want to photograph sumo, you'll need a good telephoto lens. The sumo ring has mostly tungsten lighting.179 views
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Ozeki Kakuryu in an 2013.178 views
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Ozeki Kotooshu.177 views
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Front of Kokugikan. The wide stairs make it quick for many people to exit the building. It is a sleek, modern building with a spacious interior. The roof collects rainwater for use in the toilets.176 views
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In the back on the left is a prize from Mexico and one from Hungary on the right. In the front on the left is a prize from Mongolia, middle is from NHK, and right is from China.172 views
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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.172 views
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Roho vs. Tochiazuma168 views
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Prime Minister's Cup on left, the middle is the President Chirac Award from France, and the glass on the right is a prize from the Czech Republic.167 viewsPresident Chirac is a sumo fan. There is also a Czech wrestler in the lower division.
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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165 views
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Ozeki Kotooshu with an apron by Bulgaria Yogurt. (Kotooshu is from Bulgaria.)165 views
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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.164 views
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Yokozuna Hakuho164 views
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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.163 views
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There goes Asashoryu.163 views
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Print Club photo sticker booth.162 views
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Prize from the United Arab Emirates.160 views
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Yokozuna Harumafuji159 views
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Sumo wrestler banners157 views
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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.156 views
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Often the wrestlers will lock onto each other while gripping each other's mawashi belts (made of silk). (Ozeki Kaio vs. Tamanoshima in May 2005.)153 views
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There are many sumo techniques (called kimarite) to defeat the opponent. This is okuridashi or rear push out. Once your back is toward the opponent, you have little chance to recover.152 views
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