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NIPPONIA No.32 March 15, 2005

Sumo tournaments are spectacular, but what is the life of a sumo wrestler like behind the scenes? In the last issue of Nipponia, we gave tips on what to watch for during a tournament. In this issue, we follow wrestlers through a typical day at a stable, and look at the inner workings of the traditional world of sumo.
Written by Takahashi Hidemine, Photos by Akagi Koichi
Other photo credits: Nihon Sumo Kyokai

Left: The Sadogatake Beya stable is located in a residential area.
Right: Sign with the stable name. The current stable master and rikishi trainer was once a yokozuna grand champion named Kotozakura.
When he was competing, his nickname was Mogyu (Wild Bull) because of his ferocious fighting style. The stable lets people watch training sessions.

Sumo wrestlers are more than athletes—they are also guardians of ancient traditions and etiquette.
To become a rikishi (sumo wrestler), an applicant must pass an exam given at the time of a Grand Tournament. He has to meet certain criteria: he must be a healthy male under the age of 23, he must be at least 173 cm in height and 75 kg in weight, and he must have completed compulsory education. Once accepted, he goes to the training center at the Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium in Tokyo for six months, for courses in basic sumo moves and techniques, sumo history, sports medicine, general knowledge, calligraphy and ancient poetry recital.
Sumo wrestlers belong to one of 55 stables located in or near Tokyo. They eat, train and sleep there, living a communal life with fellow rikishi.
Here is an insider's look at a day in the life of a rikishi at the Sadogatake Beya stable, located in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture. It was established more than 200 years ago.

Name plates with the names of rikishi belonging to this stable hang on the wall of the training area. The Sadogatake Beya stable now has 22 young wrestlers. Their sumo names include the syllables "Koto," after the stable master's name.

A training session.
Above: Rikishi take turns pairing up in the ring.
The moshiai-geiko sessions are awesome to watch.
Above right: Sumo requires strength and flexibility.
One good exercise for this is hip joint stretches.
Below right : In the teppo exercise, a rikishi exerts force against a pillar to improve thrusting and pushing power.


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