Sumo wrestling is one of the biggest and most popular sports in Japan and a huge part of the culture of this great country. To the outside observer the idea of sumo wrestling might seem a little hokey or comical, but, trust us, in Japan, it is serious business! There is a great shame on fighters who lose, and successful wrestlers achieve a celebrity status akin to the athletes or pop stars of the Western word.
Sumo wrestling is fascinating, and there is much more to Japan’s national sport than most people realize. Requiring enormous amounts of skill, dedication, and discipline, sumo wrestling is steeped in tradition, custom, and culture. We always think it’s important to learn as much as you can about new cultures, and understand what is important to different people. So, here are some of the things you never knew about sumo.
Sumo wrestlers weren’t always fat!
You probably have this image in your head of fat men in diapers whenever you hear the word sumo. We know that because we were the same until we found out that sumos weren’t always fat! In fact, the wrestlers have only really become larger over time, and the main reason behind the increase in size is most likely down to the fact that there are no weight categories in sumo wrestling. As such, being bigger gives one a clear advantage. Back in the day sumo wrestlers were much more muscular and wiry, but this, of course, changed over time.
Foreigners can wrestle
Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking that sumo is something that only Japanese natives can do, but this isn’t the case. There used to be no restrictions at all on the number of foreigners, and sumo wrestlers would often be recruited from countries like Mongolia. These days, foreign wrestlers are restricted to one per stable. However, some foreign sumo have achieved success and recognition, notably Czech-born former sumo Takanoyama Shuntaro (born Pavel Bojar), nicknamed The Skinny Sumo, due to his comparatively diminutive size.
Sumo wrestlers aren’t allowed to drive
This seems like one of those absurd rules you look at and think, can this possibly be true? But, surprisingly this is an actual, genuine rule imposed by the Japanese Sumo Association. It can be traced back to a particularly serious car accident involving a wrestler, as well as the fact that some sumo are considered too large to fit into their cars, the Sumo Association issued a blanket ban on the wrestlers driving. This is just one of the very strict rule imposed on sumo wrestlers, and breaking this can result in very serious punishment, such as bans and fines.
They must live a traditional lifestyle
If you think sumo are afforded the freedom to live as they like, think again. These guys (and sometimes girls) must live a traditional lifestyle throughout their careers. That means dressing in traditional Japanese clothing at all times, as well as wearing a traditional hairstyle. The life of a sumo is all about hard work and dedication to the traditional cultures and way of life in Japan. That’s why you’ll never see a sumo wrestler who isn’t dressed in a traditional way.
There are a lot of things you maybe didn’t know about sumo wrestling, and we didn’t know a lot before we started to research. It is a fascinating and captivating sport, and it has such an incredible significance in the cultural fabric of Japan. While the audience for sumo wrestling these days may be predominantly people over the age of 50, it is important for this tradition to endure, and hopefully, sumo wrestling will be able to find a younger audience soon.