My interest in Sumo started when it was televised in the UK Channel 4 in the 90’s watching the likes of Chiyonofuji and Konishiki the Hawaiian. When I visited Tokyo this April, I was very fortunate and privileged to visit the Tagonoura sumo stable to watch sumo wrestlers training. I arrived with a Japanese friend who was an avid fan of sumo at the stable around 9am and left around 11.30am.
I was informed that there are six divisions in sumo: makuuchi (maximum 42 wrestlers), jūryō (fixed at 28 wrestlers), makushita (fixed at 120 wrestlers), sandanme (fixed at 200 wrestlers), jonidan (approximately 185 wrestlers), and jonokuchi (approximately 40 wrestlers). Wrestlers enter sumo in the lowest jonokuchi division and, ability permitting, work their way up to the top division. A broad demarcation in the sumo world can be seen between the wrestlers in the top two divisions known as sekitori and those in the four lower divisions, known commonly by the more generic term rikishi.
Wrestlers are promoted or demoted according to their performance in six official tournaments held throughout the year.
There were 8 wrestlers training that day, some senior and others junior. Three top wrestlers from the Tagonoura stable that attended the training were well known. I was very surprised to have such close access to these wresters and later when I watched the sumo basho on TV, I was able to recognise them. They were extremely friendly and I am able to speak to them after the training session.
Kisenosato Yutaka, born July 3, 1986 as Yutaka Hagiwara is a sumo wrestler from Ibaraki, Japan. He reached the top makuuchi division in 2004 at the age of just 18. His highest rank to date is ōzeki, which he reached in January 2012.
Takayasu Akira, born February 28, 1990 made his professional debut in 2005, and reached the top makuuchi division in 2011, the first wrestler born in the Heisei era to do so. His highest rank has been komusubi. He is renowned for his Fighting Spirit.
Takanoyama Shuntarō born 21 February 1983 as Pavel Bojar is a sumo wrestler from Prague, Czech Republic. He is the first man from the Czech Republic to join the professional sport in Japan. Due to his light weight, he has difficulty in beating his opponents, despite his skill. However, in May 2011 he earned promotion to the sekitori ranks. He made his debut in the top makuuchi division in September 2011.
I thoroughly enjoyed my morning at the sumo stable watching the wrestlers train. Hardest part was to stay still and quiet for 3 hours as it was considered as etiquette when attending the training session.