The annual schedule of a sumo wrestler

Sumo has a long history and tradition as one of the most prestigious Japanese martial arts competitions. The year-long Grand Sumo schedule is filled with fascinating battles between wrestlers, from yokozuna to new apprentices. This article explores the year-long schedule of sumo in detail and introduces the characteristics of each tournament and notable bouts. We present the excitement and excitement of a year of sumo for all fans of the art of sumo.

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The new year in the world of sumo wrestling begins with a ceremony called “Dedicated Dohyō-iri” performed by the Yokozuna at Meiji Shrine. This ceremony, also known as “Dezuir”, is a common sight in the news. Following this ceremony, the first tournament of the year, known as “Hatsubasho”, commences in mid-January at Ryōgoku Kokugikan. The Hatsubasho, being the first official tournament of the year, typically lasts for 15 days. On the 8th day, it is common for the Emperor and Empress to attend a match known as “Imperial Sumo”. However, there are exceptions, such as in 2017 when it was held on the first day. These traditional events mark the opening of a new year in sumo wrestling.


Various events take place in the world of sumo wrestling in February. On Setsubun, sumo wrestlers participate in a bean-throwing ceremony, which is often broadcast on television. In addition to regular training in each sumo stable, events such as the “NHK Welfare Grand Sumo Tournament” and the “Grand Sumo Tournament” are held, allowing fans to see a different side of the wrestlers. In particular, the “Japan Grand Sumo Tournament”, sponsored by Fuji TV, is held at Ryōgoku Kokugikan on a Sunday in early February. Also, every year on February 11th, the “NHK Welfare Grand Sumo Tournament” is held at the same venue. At these events, wrestlers participate in activities unrelated to sumo, and there are even instances where female singers and wrestlers perform in a music show. With a plethora of events taking place, February offers a chance to enjoy a different side of the sumo wrestlers.


The Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, known for its many upsets and the fresh debut performances of new apprentices, is often referred to as the “Rough Spring Tournament” or the “Employment Tournament”. In March, the tournament moves to the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, colloquially known as the Osaka Tournament. The venue is a bit smaller compared to others, but this brings the audience seats closer to the ring, which is a unique feature. Additionally, the new apprentice examination held in conjunction with the Osaka Tournament attracts the most applicants throughout the year. The new apprentice examination is conducted six times a year before each tournament, and one of the requirements is that applicants must have completed compulsory education. Therefore, many prospective applicants who are expected to graduate from junior high school rush to join immediately after graduation.

I made my debut at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament when I was 15 years old. It’s a place of fond memories.


The tour destinations are divided into blocks according to the season, with dedication sumo matches held at Ise Shrine and Yasukuni Shrine during the spring tour. In early April, a dedication sumo match is held at Ise Shrine, followed by tours in various places in Kinki, Tokai, and Kanto. Many local sumo fans can interact with the wrestlers and enjoy the matches. On the way back to Tokyo, a dedication sumo match is also held at Yasukuni Shrine. In recent years, they have also visited Makuhari Messe for the Nico Nico Super Conference, showing their collaboration with online media as the “Super Conference Place” (Makuhari Tour).


The general practice session before the Sumo tournament in May, which is open to the public, is the only place where you can see the “Moshi-ai” (practice matches). However, since admission is free, you need to line up early in the morning. It’s an event that Sumo fans can’t afford to miss.


The Sumo schedule in June includes not only practice in the Sumo stables and training camps in the regions, but also tours and performances abroad to escape the rainy season in Japan. This is because Sumo, being Japan’s national sport, is often held in conjunction with commemorative events in various foreign countries.


The July Grand Sumo Tournament, held at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya, is co-hosted by the Japan Sumo Association and the Chunichi Shimbun. This tournament is known for its severe summer heat, making it difficult for the top-ranked wrestlers to maintain their condition, resulting in many of them losing their form. In the past, there have been five instances where a Maegashira (a wrestler ranked below the top three ranks of Yokozuna, Ozeki, and Sekiwake) has won the tournament. Unlike other grand sumo tournaments, the Nagoya tournament is co-hosted with the Chunichi Shimbun, and daily prizes from the Chunichi Shimbun are included. The harsh summer heat in Nagoya is brutal for the wrestlers, with many falling ill and having to withdraw from the tournament. However, this has also led to five instances of a Maegashira winning the tournament, earning Nagoya the nickname “The Rugged Nagoya”. After the Nagoya tournament concludes, a long summer regional tour begins.


The Summer Regional Tour takes place after the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, starting in the Tokai region and touring relatively cool northern regions such as Hokuriku, Tohoku, and Hokkaido. It also visits areas in the Kanto region that were not visited during the Spring Regional Tour. The Summer Regional Tour is a crucial mid-year period where wrestlers focus on their training to build strength, and injured wrestlers take a rest to rejuvenate. Some sumo stables even hold training camps in the hometowns of their stablemasters. These activities are an important preparation period for the wrestlers as they gear up for the second half of the year.


The last tournament of the year in Tokyo, also known as the “Autumn Tournament”, is a stage where sumo wrestlers fully demonstrate the results of their rigorous summer training. Particularly, the performance of young wrestlers is highly anticipated. With many wrestlers “transforming” and showing significant improvement, fans are greatly excited. Moreover, matches against top-ranked wrestlers returning from absence are not to be missed. This Autumn Tournament, where you can see the techniques of wrestlers honed through summer tours and training camps, promises thrilling bouts that will have you on the edge of your seat.


In October, the Meiji Shrine Festival and the All-Japan Sumo Championship are held. Following the Yokozuna ring-entering ceremony, a tournament takes place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. Additionally, throughout October, the Autumn tour is conducted, primarily visiting the Kinki and Chugoku regions, while also making stops in the Kanto and Tokai regions. These events provide an excellent opportunity to witness the skills and mental strength of the sumo wrestlers.


The Kyushu Basho, held at the Fukuoka International Center in Fukuoka Prefecture, is known as the final grand sumo tournament of the year. This location is particularly known for the passionate cheers for sumo wrestlers from Kyushu. In addition, a festival on the eve of the tournament is co-hosted by NHK Fukuoka Broadcasting Station and the Sumo Association, featuring events such as sumo wrestlers’ singing contests and introductions of wrestlers from Kyushu, greatly exciting local fans. The Kyushu Basho has a history of over 50 years and is an important event that wraps up the year.


After the Kyushu Basho, the sumo wrestlers head to the warm regions of Kyushu and Okinawa to escape the snow and cold for the winter tour. This tour, which takes place after the Kyushu Basho, is an opportunity for the wrestlers to train. At the end of the year, events such as mochi-making are held in each room to wrap up the year. They then begin preparations to welcome the new year. One of the highlights of the winter tour is the mochi-making and first writing of the year held in the sumo rooms.

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