What is a Sumo Gyoji?

When we think of sumo, the image of a gyoji wearing a large crow-shaped hat and waving a military banner comes to mind.

The gyoji stands between rikishi from the east and west in the ring. The gyoji is in charge of judging the match. After a bout, the gyoji must give the decision to one of the east or west rikishi.

The role and history of the gyoji are often not well known. In this issue, we will introduce the gyoji of sumo in detail

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The History of Sumo and the Birth of Gyoji

The history of gyoji began with the development of sumo in Japan. The first gyoji appeared around 1570, when Nobunaga Oda held a sumo tournament. As sumo spread throughout Japan in the Edo period, "gyoji families" were created to fill the role of gyoji. These gyoji families are a kind of traditional lineage of sumo that has inherited the techniques and rituals of sumo. Today, the "Kimura" and "Shikimori" of the Tokyo Gyoji Family are the representative gyoji 

Gyoji Job Description

The gyoji's main job is to facilitate sumo matches. However, the gyoji is not only a referee; he also prepares the banzuke list, makes in-ring announcements, and coordinates with the places. The gyoji is also responsible for providing support to the places where rikishi have the opportunity to wrestle in their hometowns. The gyoji is also responsible for the ring festival, a Shinto ritual to pray for the safety of the tournament. In other words, the gyoji has a wide range of roles from behind the scenes to the main tournament.

Gyoji ranks are divided into the following eight levels, with different dress and pay depending on rank.

1. jonokuchi kaku gyoji

2. jonidan kaku gyoji

3. sandanme kaku gyoji

4. makushita kaku gyoji

5. juryo kaku gyoji

6. makuchi kaku gyoji

7. sanyaku kaku gyoji

8. Tategyoji (highest position: Shikimori Inosuke/Kimura-shounosuke)

Gyoji's work flow

The gyoji's work proceeds according to the schedule of the main sumo tournaments. There are six main tournaments a year, each lasting for 15 days. During this period, the gyoji is in charge of refereeing matches, making announcements, and recording wins and losses.

During the period when the tournaments are not held, the gyoji are responsible for administrative tasks such as supporting the tournaments and preparing the banzuke list. The preparation of the banzuke chart is a particularly important role of the gyoji, and is written in the traditional Edo script, known as Sumoji. The banzuke, which is made public to the audience, is handled by a gyoji with good writing skills, and may take more than 10 days to complete.

Gyoji's annual income

Gyoji's monthly income is determined by rank. The gyoji's salary is the sum of the main salary + cost of supplementary costumes + other allowances.

1. jonokuchi kaku gyoji 14,000 yen - 20,000 yen

2. jonidan kaku gyoji 20,000 yen to 29,000 yen

3. sandanme kaku gyoji 29,000 yen to 42,000 yen

4. makushita kaku gyoji 42,000 yen to 100,000 yen

5. juryo kaku gyoji 100,000 yen to 200,000 yen

6. makuchi kaku gyoji 200,000 yen to 360,000 yen

7. sanyaku kaku gyoji 360,000 yen to 400,000 yen

8. Tategyoji  400,000 yen to 500,000 yen

Basically, you live with the rikishi in the sumo stable until you reach juryo rank, so you don't have to worry about housing and food costs.

I have never lived with a gyoji because there was no gyoji in the stable I was in, but I have heard that they practice calligraphy all the time.

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