What is a Sumo Tokoyama?

In sumo, Japan's traditional national sport, a variety of people work behind the scenes. The "tokoyama," or "barber," who ties the symbolic "oicho" and "topknot" of sumo wrestlers, is one of the important jobs that support the world of sumo as a behind-the-scenes worker. Like rikishi and gyoji, tokoyama belong to the sumo stable and are in charge of tying the wrestlers' topknots. It is said that barbers are not limited to the world of sumo, but originally began tying up the hair of Kabuki actors for the stage during the Edo period (1603-1867). The tokoyama of sumo is employed by the Japan Sumo Association and, like rikishi, gyoji, and callers, belongs to a sumo stable and does the job. There are two main types of mage for rikishi, one of which is called an oicho. The first is the oicho, which can be worn by rikishi ranked juryo or higher in the ranking system. The other is the topknot, which is worn by rikishi of ranks that are not allowed to wear the oicho. The oicho hairstyle is only worn on formal occasions, so rikishi of the juryo rank and above also wear topknots during training and in their daily lives. The tokoyama lives in the sumo stable with the rikishi, and his main job is to tie the oicho and topknot.

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The Role and Technology of Tokoyama

The person who ties the topknot of a rikishi is called a "tokoyama". A barber is hired by the Sumo Association and assigned to a sumo stable. New recruits must be men under the age of 19 who have completed compulsory education, and no more than 50 may be hired. It takes many years to master the art of tokoyama. It takes at least five years to be able to do the "Oicho," which requires a great deal of skill. In addition to the topknot, the barber is responsible for a variety of other tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the wrestlers. There are two types of topknots: "chonmage" and "oicho," and only rikishi of juryo rank and above can wear oiginkyo. The topknot is a symbol of a rikishi's appearance and also serves to prevent injury. Rikishi from other countries also sometimes wear topknots, which require some ingenuity depending on the condition of their hair. There are different ranks of tokoyamas, and they are promoted according to their length of service and ability.

Tokoyama Ranks

Ranks are determined by length of service and ability. The higher the rank, the higher the mage of the ranking rikishi, and the better the treatment. In addition to magee tying, tokoyama may also be in charge of "chankoban" (cooking), cleaning, and taking care of newly-introduced rikishi.


Tokoyama in the sumo world requires long years of training and perseverance, and although sumo fans have few chances to see it, it is an important role that supports the sumo world!

In the sumo stable I belonged to, there was a Tokoyama, and every day after naptime, the wrestlers and Tokoyama tended to get along well because they tied their topknots.


  1. There is a dedicated person who creates sumo hairstyles! I think that's so cool and fascinating.

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