Wall of Daikon

Okay, I'll say it here: I'm a fan of sumo wrestling. 

It started back in the '90's when Akebono, an enormous Hawaiian guy, rose the the highest rank of Yokazuna, the first non-Japanese wrestler ever to do so. He was so popular that American sports broadcasters included some sumo coverage on certain weekends. It was fun, exciting, and novel. Then when Akebono retired, 2001, sumo disappeared from TV.

But then, digital over-the-air TV brought an unique thing: subchannels. The way it works is that when a major broadcaster takes a digital spot, there is more bandwidth there than they need, so they can put other channels in the space left. These other channels are usually lower resolution, and which do not have a large market. The Utah Education Network, channel 9.1, has four subchannels, 9.4 is the NHK TV English service. NHK is the Japanese National Network. Every two months, NHK includes coverage of the latest Sumo Basho (tournament), and this is where I rediscovered Sumo.

Sumo is Japans biggest sport. Big enough to close the shops when it's on TV.

I've found that the NHK app also shows these broadcasts on demand, and they are streamed at better resolution than the TV does. So grab the app if you want to enjoy the spectacle. It can be fun. NHK dos the occasional weekend live coverage, where you see all the ritual, but it's the highlight show each day I enjoy the most.

Beware there are many terms in Japanese that won't exactly make sense until you learn what they are. I'll add a selected list below, one I got from Wikipedia.

Here are some media, other than NHK:




  • Grand Sumo Breakdown
  • Tachiai

YouTube channels:

Scroll down for the ending, below the dictionary

Sumo Terminology, from Wikipedia:


Banzuke for the January 2012 tournament
banzuke (番付)
List of sumo wrestlers according to rank for a particular grand tournament, reflecting changes in rank due to the results of the previous tournament. It is written out in a particular calligraphy (see sumō-ji) and usually released on the Monday 13 days prior to the first day of the tournament.
basho (場所)
'Venue'. Any sumo tournament. Compare honbasho.
binzuke (鬢付け)
Also called binzuke abura ('binzuke oil'). A Japanese pomade, which consists mainly of wax and hardened chamomile oil that is used to style sumo wrestlers' hair and give it its distinctive smell and sheen. It is used exclusively by tokoyama hairdressers.


chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋)
A stew commonly eaten in large quantities by sumo wrestlers as part of a weight gain diet. It contains dashi or stock with sake or mirin to add flavor. The bulk of chankonabe is made up of large quantities of protein sources, usually chicken, fish (fried and made into balls), tofu, or sometimes beef; and vegetables (daikon, bok choy, etc.).
chikara-mizu (力水)
Power-water. The ladleful of water with which a wrestler will ceremonially rinse out his mouth prior to a bout. It must be handed to him by a wrestler not tainted with a loss on that day, so it is either handed to him by the victorious wrestler of the previous bout if he was on the same side of the dohyō, or if that wrestler was defeated, by the wrestler who will fight in the bout following. This system works well until the last match of the day (musubi no ichiban (結びの一番)) when one side will not have someone to give them the power water. This is due to the fact that one of the sides from the previous match lost and there is no next match, so there is neither a winner from the previous match, nor a next wrestler to give them the water. In this case a winner from two or three prior matches will be the one to give them the power water. This wrestler is known as the kachi-nokori (勝ち残り), which means "the winner who remains".
chikara-gami (力紙)
Power-paper. The piece of calligraphy-grade paper with which a wrestler will ceremonially wipe the sweat off his face prior to a bout. It must be handed to him by a wrestler not tainted with a loss on that day, in the same manner of the chikara-mizu (力水) described above.
chirichōzu (塵手水)
'Washing the hands'. One of the many rituals preceding a sumo bout, in which both wrestlers squat facing each other, display their open hands, clap and extend their arms. This is done to demonstrate they do not hold or carry weapons, and that the fight will be a fair and clean one.
chonmage (丁髷)
Traditional Japanese haircut with a topknot, now largely only worn by rikishi and so an easy way to recognize that a man is in the sumo profession.


dohyō-iri ceremony
yokozuna (Kakuryū Rikisaburō) performing a dohyō-iri
danpatsu-shiki (断髪式)
Retirement ceremony, held for a top wrestler in the Ryōgoku Kokugikan some months after retirement, in which his chonmage, or top knot, is cut off. A wrestler must have fought as a sekitori in at least 30 tournaments to qualify for a ceremony at the Kokugikan.
dohyō (土俵)
The ring in which the sumo wrestlers hold their matches, made of a specific clay and spread with sand. A new dohyō is built prior to each tournament.
dohyō-iri (土俵入り)
Ring-entering ceremony, performed only by the wrestlers in the jūryō and makuuchi divisions. The east and west sides perform their dohyō-iri together, in succession; the yokozuna have their own individual dohyō-iri performed separately. The main styles of yokozuna dohyō-iri are Unryū and Shiranui, named after Unryū Kyūkichi and Shiranui Kōemon. A yokozuna performs the ceremony with two attendants, the tachimochi (太刀持ち) or sword carrier, and the tsuyuharai (露払い) or dew sweeper.


ebanzuke (絵番付)
Picture banzuke with paintings of top division sekitorigyōji and sometimes yobidashi.


fundoshi ()
Also pronounced mitsu. General term referring to a loincloth, ornamental apron, or mawashi.
fusenpai (不戦敗)
A loss by default for not appearing at a scheduled bout. If a wrestler withdraws from the tournament (injury or retirement), one loss by default will be recorded against him on the following day, and simple absence for the remainder. Recorded with a black square.
fusenshō (不戦勝)
A win by default because of the absence of the opponent. The system was established for the honbasho in the May 1927 tournament. After the issue of Hitachiiwa Eitarō, the system was modified to the modern form. Prior to this, an absence would simply be recorded for both wrestlers, regardless of which one had failed to show. Recorded with a white square.


A war fan, usually made of wood, used by the gyōji to signal his instructions and final decision during a bout. Historically, it was used by samurai officers in Japan to communicate commands to their soldiers.
ginō-shō (技能賞)
Technique prize. One of three special prizes awarded to rikishi for performance in a basho.
gyōji (行司)
A sumo referee.


hakkeyoi (はっけよい)
The phrase shouted by a sumo referee during a bout, specifically when the action has stalled and the wrestlers have reached a stand-off. It means, "Put some spirit into it!"
henka (変化)
A sidestep to avoid an attack. If done, it is usually at the tachi-ai to set up a slap-down technique, but this is often regarded as bad sumo and unworthy of higher ranked wrestlers. Some say it is a legitimate "outsmarting" move, and provides a necessary balance to direct force, henka meaning "change; variation".[4]
heya (部屋)
Literally "room", but usually rendered as "stable". The establishment where a wrestler trains, and also lives while he is in the lower divisions. It is pronounced beya in compounds, such as in the name of the stable. (For example, the heya named Sadogatake is called Sadogatake-beya.)
higi (非技)
'Non-technique'. A winning situation where the victorious wrestler did not initiate a kimarite. The Japan Sumo Association recognizes five higi. See kimarite for descriptions.
honbasho (本場所)
A professional sumo tournament, held six times a year since 1958, where the results affect the wrestlers' rankings.
hyōshi-gi (拍子木)
The wooden sticks that are clapped by the yobidashi to draw the spectator's attention.


ichimon (一門)
A group of related heya. There are five groups: Dewanoumi, Nishonoseki, Takasago, Tokitsukaze, and Isegahama. These groups tend to cooperate closely on inter-stable training and the occasional transfer of personnel. All ichimon have at least one representative on the Sumo Association board of directors. In the past, ichimon were more established cooperative entities and until 1965, wrestlers from the same ichimon did not fight each other in tournament competition.
itamiwake (痛み分け)
A draw due to injury. A rematch (torinaoshi) has been called but one wrestler is too injured to continue; this is no longer in use and the injured wrestler forfeits instead.[1] The last itamiwake was recorded in 1999.[7] Recorded with a white triangle.


jōi-jin (上位陣)
"High rankers". A term loosely used to describe wrestlers who would expect to face a yokozuna during a tournament. In practice this normally means anyone ranked maegashira 4 or above.
jonidan (序二段)
The second-lowest division of sumo wrestlers, below sandanme and above jonokuchi.
jonokuchi (序の口)
An expression meaning "this is only the beginning". The lowest division of sumo wrestlers.
jūryō (十両)
"Ten ryō", for the original salary of a professional sumo wrestler. The second-highest division of sumo wrestlers, below makuuchi and above makushita, and the lowest division where the wrestlers receive a salary and full privileges.


An Edo-period wrestler wearing a keshō-mawashi
kachi-koshi (勝ち越し)
More wins than losses for a wrestler in a tournament. This is eight wins for a sekitori with fifteen bouts in a tournament, and four wins for lower-ranked wrestlers with seven bouts in a tournament. Gaining kachi-koshi generally results in promotion. The opposite is make-koshi.
kachi-nokori (勝ち残り)
Literally translates as "the winner who remains". During a day of sumo the "power water" is only given to the next wrestler by either a previous winner on their side of the ring or the next wrestler to fight on their side of the ring so as not to receive the water from either the opposite side or from a loser, which would be bad luck. However at the end of the day, one side will not have a winner or a next wrestler to give them the water. In this case the wrestler who was the last to win from their side will remain at the ringside in order to give them the "power water". This individual is known as the kachi-nokori.
kadoban (角番)
An ōzeki who has suffered make-koshi in his previous tournament and so will be demoted if he fails to score at least eight wins. The present rules date from July 1969 and there have been over 100 cases of kadoban ōzeki since that time.
kantō-shō (敢闘賞)
Fighting Spirit prize. One of three special prizes awarded to rikishi for performance in a basho.
kenshō-kin (懸賞金)
Prize money based on sponsorship of the bout, awarded to the winner upon the gyōji's gunbai. The banners of the sponsors are paraded around the dohyō prior to the bout, and their names are announced. Roughly half the sponsorship prize money goes directly to the winner, the remainder (minus an administrative fee) is held by the Japan Sumo Association until his retirement.
keshō-mawashi (化粧廻し)
The loincloth fronted with a heavily decorated apron worn by sekitori wrestlers for the dohyō-iri. These are very expensive, and are usually paid for by the wrestler's organization of supporters or a commercial sponsor.
kimarite (決まり手)
Winning techniques in a sumo bout, announced by the referee on declaring the winner. The Japan Sumo Association recognizes eighty-two different kimarite.
kinboshi (金星)
"Gold star". Awarded to a maegashira who defeats a yokozuna during a honbasho. It represents a permanent salary bonus.
kinjite (禁じ手)
"Forbidden hand". A foul move during a bout, which results in disqualification. Examples include punching, kicking and eye-poking. The only kinjite likely to be seen these days (usually inadvertently) is hair-pulling.
Kokusai Sumō Renmei (国際相撲連盟)
International Sumo Federation, the IOC-recognized governing body for international and amateur sumo competitions.
komusubi (小結)
"Little knot". The fourth-highest rank of sumo wrestlers, and the lowest san'yaku rank.
kore yori san'yaku (これより三役)
"These three bouts". The final three torikumi during senshūraku. The winner of the first bout wins a pair of arrows. The winner of the penultimate bout wins the string. The ultimate bout winner is awarded the bow.[8]
kuroboshi (黒星)
"Black star". A loss in a sumo bout, recorded with a black circle.
kyūjō (休場)
A wrestler's absence from a honbasho, usually due to injury.


maegashira (前頭)
"Those ahead". The fifth-highest rank of sumo wrestlers, and the lowest makuuchi rank. This rank makes up the bulk of the makuuchi division, comprising around 30 wrestlers depending on the number in san'yaku. Only the top ranks (maegashira jō'i (前頭上位)) normally fight against san'yaku wrestlers. Also sometimes referred to as hiramaku (平幕), particularly when used in contrast to san'yaku.
make-koshi (負け越し)
More losses than wins for a wrestler in a tournament. Make-koshi generally results in demotion, although there are special rules on demotion for ōzeki. The opposite is kachi-koshi.
makushita (幕下)
"Below the curtain". The third highest division of sumo wrestlers, below jūryō and above sandanme. Originally the division right below makuuchi, explaining its name, before jūryō was split off from it to become the new second highest division.
makuuchi (幕内) or maku-no-uchi (幕の内)
"Inside the curtain". The top division in sumo. It is named for the curtained-off waiting area once reserved for professional wrestlers during basho, and comprises 42 wrestlers.
man'in onrei (満員御礼)
Full house. Banners are unfurled from the ceiling when this is achieved during honbasho. However, it is not necessary to be at 100% capacity to unfurl the banner. Typically when seats are over 80% filled the banner is unfurled, however they have been unfurled with numbers as low as 75% and not unfurled with numbers as high as 95%.
matta (待った)
False start. When the wrestlers do not have mutual consent in the start of the match and one of the wrestlers starts before the other wrestler is ready, a matta is called, and the match is restarted. Typically the wrestler who is at fault for the false start (often this is both of them; one for giving the impression that he was ready to the other and the other for moving before his opponent was ready) will bow to the judges in apology. The first kanji means 'to wait', indicating that the match must wait until both wrestlers are ready.
mawashi (廻し)
The thick-waisted loincloth worn for sumo training and competition. Mawashi worn by sekitori wrestlers are white cotton for training and colored silk for competition; lower ranks wear dark cotton for both training and competition.
mizu-iri (水入り)
Water break. When a match goes on for around 4 minutes, the gyōji will stop the match for a water break for the safety of the wrestlers. In the two sekitori divisions, he will then place them back in exactly the same position to resume the match, while lower division bouts are restarted from the tachi-ai.
mochikyūkin (持ち給金)
A system of bonus payments to sekitori wrestlers.
mono-ii (物言い)
The discussion held by the shimpan when the gyōji's decision for a bout is called into question. Technically, the term refers to the querying of the decision: the resulting discussion is a kyogi. Literally means, a "talk about things".


negishi-ryū (根岸流)
The conservative style of calligraphy used in the banzuke. See sumō-ji.
Nihon Sumō Kyōkai (日本相撲協会)
The Japan Sumo Association, the governing body for professional sumo.
nokotta (残った)
Something the referee shouts during the bout indicating to the wrestler on defense that he is still in the ring. Literally translates as "remaining" as in remaining in the ring.


ōichōmage (大銀杏髷)
Literally "ginkgo-leaf top-knot". This is the hair style worn in tournaments by jūryō and makuuchi wrestlers. It is so named because the top-knot is fanned out on top of the head in a shape resembling a ginkgo leaf. It is only worn during formal events such as tournaments. Otherwise even top rankers will wear their hair in a chonmage style.
oyakata (親方)
A sumo coach, almost always the owner of one of the 105 name licenses (toshiyori kabu). Also used as a suffix as a personal honorific.
ōzeki (大関)
"Great barrier", but usually translated as "champion". The second-highest rank of sumo wrestlers.


rikishi (力士)
Literally, "powerful man". The most common term for a professional sumo wrestler, although sumōtori is sometimes used instead.


yokozuna performing a shiko
The Prime Minister's Cup on display
Sumōmoji sample depicting the term edomoji
sagari (下がり)
The strings inserted into the front of the mawashi for competition. The sagari of sekitori wrestlers are stiffened with a seaweed-based glue.
sandanme (三段目)
"Third level". The third lowest division of sumo wrestlers, above jonidan and below makushita.
sanshō (三賞)
"Three prizes". Special prizes awarded to makuuchi wrestlers for exceptional performance.
san'yaku (三役)
"Three ranks". The "titleholder" ranks at the top of sumo. There are actually four ranks in san'yakuyokozunaōzekisekiwake and komusubi, since the yokozuna is historically an ōzeki with a license to perform his own ring-entering ceremony. The word is occasionally used to refer only to sekiwake and komusubi.
san'yaku soroibumi (三役揃い踏み)
Ritual preceding the kore yori san'yaku or final three bouts on the final day (senshūraku) of a honbasho, where the six scheduled wrestlers, three from east side and three from the west side in turn perform shiko simultaneously on the dohyō.
sekitori (関取)
Literally "taken the barrier". Sumo wrestlers ranked jūryō or higher.
sekiwake (関脇)
The third-highest rank of sumo wrestlers.
senshūraku (千秋楽)
The final day of a sumo tournament. Senshūraku literally translates as "many years of comfort." There are two possible explanations for the origins of this term. In gagaku (traditional Japanese court music) the term is tied with celebratory meaning to the last song of the day. In classic nōgaku theater there is a play known as Takasago, in which the term is used in a song at the end of the play. Today the term is used in kabuki and other types of performances as well.
shikiri (仕切り)
"Toeing the mark". The preparation period before a bout, during which the wrestlers stare each other down, crouch repeatedly, perform the ritual salt-throwing, and other tactics to try to gain a psychological advantage.[12]
shikiri-sen (仕切り線)
The two short white parallel lines in the middle of the ring that wrestlers must crouch behind before starting a bout. Introduced in the spring tournament of 1928, they are 90 cm (35 in) long, 6 cm (2.4 in) wide and placed 70 cm (28 in) apart using enamel paint.[13]
shiko (四股)
The sumo exercise where each leg in succession is lifted as high and as straight as possible, and then brought down to stomp on the ground with considerable force. In training this may be repeated hundreds of times in a row. Shiko is also performed ritually to drive away demons before each bout and as part of the yokozuna dohyō-iri.
shikona (四股名)
A wrestler's "fighting or ring name", often a poetic expression which may contain elements specific to the wrestler's heya. Japanese wrestlers frequently do not adopt a shikona until they reach makushita or jūryō; foreign wrestlers adopt one on entering the sport. On rare occasions, a wrestler may fight under his original family name for his entire career, such as former ōzeki Dejima and former yokozuna Wajima.
shimpan (審判)
Ringside judges or umpires who may issue final rulings on any disputed decision. There are five shimpan for each bout, drawn from senior members of the Nihon Sumō Kyōkai, and wearing traditional formal kimono.
shini-tai (死に体)
"Dead body". A wrestler who was not technically the first to touch outside the ring but is nonetheless ruled the loser due to his opponent having put him in an irrecoverable position.[14]
shiomaki (塩撒き)
One of the many rituals preceding a sumo bout, in which the wrestlers throw handfuls of salt before entering the dohyō. According to Shinto beliefs, salt possesses purifying properties; as they cast salt into the ring, the wrestlers would then be cleansing the dohyō of bad energy and possibly protecting themselves from injury. The average amount a wrestler grabs and throws is around 200 g (7.1 oz), although some wrestlers throw up to 500 g (18 oz).[16]
shokkiri (初っ切り)
A comedic sumo performance, a type of match common to exhibition matches and tours, similar in concept to the basketball games of the Harlem Globetrotters; often used to demonstrate examples of illegal moves.
shukun-shō (殊勲賞)
Outstanding performance prize. One of three special prizes awarded to rikishi for performance in a basho.
sumō-ji (相撲字)
Calligraphy style with very wide brushstrokes used to write the banzuke.
sumōtori (相撲取)
Literally, "one who does sumo". Sumo wrestler, but occasionally refers only to sekitori.


tegata made by Terao
Emperor's Cup on display
tachi-ai (立ち合い)
The initial charge at the beginning of a bout.
tawara ()
Bales of rice straw. Tawara are half-buried in the clay of the dohyō to mark its boundaries.
tegata (手形)
"Hand print". A memento consisting of a wrestler's handprint in red or black ink and his shikona written by the wrestler in calligraphy on a square paperboard. It can be an original or a copy. A copy of a tegata may also be imprinted onto other memorabilia such as porcelain dishes. Only sekitori wrestlers are allowed to make hand prints.
tegatana (手刀)
"Knife hand". After winning a match and accepting the prize money, the wrestler makes a ceremonial hand movement with a tegatana known as tegatana o kiru (手刀を切る) where he makes three cutting motions in the order of left, right, and center.


yobidashi (呼出 or 呼び出し)
Usher or announcer. General assistants at tournaments. They call the wrestlers to the dohyō before their bouts, build the dohyō prior to a tournament and maintain it between bouts, display the advertising banners before sponsored bouts, maintain the supply of ceremonial salt and chikara-mizu, and any other needed odd jobs.
yokozuna (横綱)
"Horizontal rope". The top rank in sumo, usually translated "Grand Champion". The name comes from the rope a yokozuna wears for the dohyō-iri. See tsuna.
yumitori-shiki (弓取式)
The bow-twirling ceremony performed at the end of each honbasho day by a designated wrestler, the yumitori, who is usually from the makushita division, and is usually a member of a yokozuna's stable.
File:Yumitori shiki.ogv
yūshō (優勝)
A tournament championship in any division, awarded to the wrestler who wins the most bouts.

 All this is one big lead-in to what I wanted to post today. One of my favorites is Shodai, an Ozeki (second-highest rank), who graduated from NODAI, the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (Get it, Shodai from NODAI), and NODAI had a very unusual thing they do, the Daikon Dance. Daikons are large Japanese radishes, not spicy, that cook up really nicely. [On American farms they are sometimes used as a cover crop, as "oilseed radish."] Here is the Daikon Dance:

One American sumo commentator thought that Shodai looked something like a daikon, and Shodai has a nice defensive way of wrestling, so he refers to the "Wall of Daikon" when Shodai is unbeatable. Here is Shodai vs. Hoshoryu, Shodai is in the black mawashi (belt):

Wall of Daikon.

ADDED APRIL 2024: Akebono died last month. Here is a slideshow retrospective put on by the NipponSports website: https://www.nikkansports.com/battle/sumo/news/202404110000240.html