About the championship system and the three prizes in Grand Sumo Wrestling

In the official tournaments that determine the rankings in sumo wrestling, individual championships are awarded not only to the highest performers among the Makuuchi wrestlers but also to all ranks below Juryo. The championship system began in the June tournament of Meiji 42 (1909) when the old Ryogoku Kokugikan opened. At that time, it was an East-West competition, with the winner being the one with more victories, who was awarded a championship flag and prize money. The Japan Sumo Association began recognizing individual champions from the January tournament of Taisho 15, and from this time, the Emperor's Cup was also awarded to the champion.

In addition, the system of three prizes - the Outstanding Performance Award, the Fighting Spirit Prize, and the Technique Prize - which are given to Makuuchi wrestlers ranked below Sekiwake who have performed well, also started from the September tournament of the same year.

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Makuuchi Championship

The Makuuchi Championship, as the name suggests, is the highest honor that a sumo wrestler in the top Makuuchi division can achieve. Wrestlers who have won the Makuuchi Championship are awarded the Emperor's Cup and a victory flag in a ceremony held after all bouts on the final day. 

In addition, a cash prize is given to the Makuuchi Championship winner. The amount is an impressive 10 million yen. Thus, winning the Makuuchi Championship is a great honor for a wrestler, and achieving it can significantly change a wrestler's life.


The sumo wrestler who wins the Makuuchi division is awarded a "Yusho-gaku" by the Mainichi Newspapers. The Yusho-gaku is a framed picture of the champion wrestler wearing a ceremonial belt. The Yusho-gaku weighs as much as 80 kilograms and is displayed at the Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall.

Three Award System

There is also a three-award system for Sekiwake and below, which is given to Makuuchi wrestlers who have excelled. These are the Outstanding Performance Award, the Fighting Spirit Prize, and the Technique Prize, each of which has the following meanings

Shukun-shō: This award is given to a wrestler who has won against a Yokozuna or Ōzeki, or who has won a bout that affects the championship. For example, if the champion wrestler has a record of 14 wins and 1 loss, the wrestler who was the only one to defeat him may be recognized and become eligible for this award.

Kantō-shō: This award is given to a wrestler who shows a strong fighting spirit. It can also be given as an encouragement to new and veteran wrestlers. In addition, wrestlers who have achieved good results that are difficult to categorize under Shukun-shō or Gino-shō (for example, winning or tying for the championship from below Sekiwake, or being involved in the championship race until the final stages even if not winning) may also receive this award.

Gino-shō: This award is given to a wrestler whose skills are particularly excellent. Wrestlers with a variety of winning techniques or those who perform unusual techniques tend to win this award, and receiving this award is considered a proof of being recognized as a unique wrestler in Makuuchi.

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