The Sumo Scene / Historical Event to Raise Money to Support Noto-earthquake Victims

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Terunofuji etches his name into the Yokozuna Rikishi Hi monument as the 73rd yokozuna at Tomioka Hachimangu shrine in Koto Ward, Tokyo, in August 2022.

Kanjin Ozumo, a charity sumo event with a rich history, is set to take place at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan on April 16.

The event is in support of the victims of the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, a major temblor that struck the area on Jan. 1. Kanjin Ozumo will feature bouts between sekitori — wrestlers in the top two divisions — and a dohyo-iri, or ring-entering ceremony, by rikishi.

Other activities on the agenda include the chance for visitors to interact with the wrestlers, taiko drum performances, rikishi singing popular songs and stablemasters taking part in old-timer’s bouts.

All proceeds generated from the admission fees will be donated to the disaster-stricken area.

Although it is a charity event in nature, the Japan Sumo Association went with the moniker Kanjin Ozumo.

“We thought it was better to use that name to take advantage of the rich history that goes along with it,” an association official said.

“Kanjin zumo” refers to tournaments held to raise donations for the construction and repair of temples and shrines that were popular during the Edo period (1603-1867). The “o” comes from the first character in ozumo and stands for “grand.”

Tomioka Hachimangu shrine in Tokyo’s Koto Ward is said to be the birthplace of Edo kanjin zumo. The shrine is also a popular tourist spot featuring numerous stone monuments that represent the sport.

What stands out at the shrine is the Yokozuna Rikishi Hi, a monument of yokozuna or grand sumo champions. The monument, 3.5 meters tall, 3 meters wide and weighing 20 tons, was built in 1900 during the Meiji era.

The names of every yokozuna in history are engraved on the monument — from Akashi Shiganosuke, the first to reach the rank, to Terunofuji, the 73rd. Every time a wrestler is promoted to the top rank, a ceremony is held in which the new yokozuna etches his own name into the monument with a chisel.

Since Terunofuji was promoted to yokozuna during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was held one year after his promotion.

“I’m now alongside all the previous yokozuna,” a deeply emotional Terunofuji said at the time.

He is scheduled to perform a ring-entering ceremony at the upcoming event. That might be another opportunity that reminds him of the weight of his status as yokozuna.

— Kamimura is a sumo expert.