Kochi: Traditional spider sumo tournament held at shrine

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People watch a spider battle on a stick at Ichijo Shrine in Shimanto, Kochi Prefecture.

SHIMANTO, Kochi — A shrine in Shikoku held a spider wrestling tournament earlier this month where local children entered their own spiders into the tournament.

The unique spider sumo tournament was held at Ichijo Shrine in Shimanto, Kochi Prefecture. About 50 contestants, mainly local elementary school students, participated in the tournament that saw a big turnout of spectators.

The spiders, measuring 2 to 3 centimeters in length, were trained by the children who found them in the mountains or parks. Spider wrestlers were divided into two divisions: the makuuchi, sumo’s top division, for spiders 21 millimeters or longer, and the juryo, sumo’s second highest division, for smaller ones.

The match took place on a 50-centimeter-long stick, called the dohyo, or sumo ring, and whichever spider forced the other to drop into the water below, bit the opponent’s body, or wound its silk around the opponent was declared the winner.

A 7-year-old boy participated in the tournament with a spider he had raised for nearly a month at home. “My spider did a great job. I’ll feed it a grasshopper,” he said.

It may seem like a rural children’s game, but it is in fact a traditional game started by the ladies-in-waiting of a prestigious noble family who fled Kyoto amid a civil war and settled in the area in around the 15th century.