And the winner is...

In Japanese sumo there is a range of prizes for the most skillful wrestlers. Apart from the actual championship award, The Emperor's Cup, there are awards for e.g. technique, for upsetting the yokozuna (the Grand Champion), and for showing figting spirit. These awards can be given to one or more wrestlers at a time, or, if no one has proven worthy, not be given at all.

Only wrestlers ranked below ozeki, and who get kachikoshi (more wins than losses1), can be awarded any of the three san sho. The Kinboshi will be awarded any maegashira2 who defeats the yokozuna. The Emperor's Cup naturally only goes to the one sumotori (sumo wrestler) who wins the basho (the winner will simply be the one wrestler who has won the most bouts. If there is a tie, there will be a play-off). The Emperor's Cup is not for keeps, though; it goes back to the kyokai in time for the next grand tournament two months later, with the winner's name on a small silver plate attached to the base of the large, heavy (35 kg) silver cup (the wrestler does get to keep the 10,000,000 yen that comes with the cup).

The special prizes, awarded by the Nihon Sumo Kyokai (Japanese Sumo Association), are:

  • The Emperor's Cup - 天皇賜杯 - (for winning the tournament), donated in 1927 by Emperor Hirohito
  • Kinboshi - 金星 - (Gold Star for when a maegashira3 defeats a yokozuna)
  • Gino sho - 技能賞 - (Technique Award).
    This very prestigious award is given to the wrestler who has managed (throughout the basho) to "lure" his opponents into fighting his way. It is not awarded very often (once in every four or five basho), and the present Yokozuna Asashoryu, noted for his technique, never got one. Ozeki Tochiazuma, on the other hand, has 7.
  • Shukun sho - 殊勲賞 - (Outstanding Performance Award)
    This award is given to the sumotori who has done well enough to almost get yusho (win the tournament), or who has beaten the winner of the tournament (or the yokozuna). Actually, also lower ranked wrestlers, who has not even met the yokozuna or even an ozeki, can get shukun sho if they perform exceptionally well.
  • Kanto sho - 敢闘賞 - (Fighting Spirit Award).
    This award goes to the most keen and industrious wrestler, who manages to use his abilities to his best advantage. Maegashira Kyokotenho and Tamanoshima each have 4 of these awards.
The board of shimpan (judges) decides who gets the special prizes (except for The Emperor's Cup and the Kinboshi). Points are awarded throughout the basho (tournament), and on the final day the results are announced. With each award comes an amount of prize money.4

Through the years more and more cups and trophies have been awarded by people and associations outside the kyokai (these prizes all go to the winner of the tournament). Among these are the Prime Minister's Cup, The Minister of Education's Cup, The Tokyo Governor's Award, The Coca-Cola Award, and The Shitzuoka Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Association Award (the champion's weight in Shitzuoka green tea!).

On the last day of the basho, the winners of the last three bouts5 get their own special prizes: the Arrows ("Ya"), the String ("Tsuru"), and the Bow ("Yumi"). These prizes are a remnant from the days before yokozuna became a rank in its own right; when the top of makuuchi (the sanyaku) contained two komusubi, two sekiwake, and two ozeki (strictly speaking, the yokozuna is not really part of the sanyaku).

  1. Grand Tournaments (Hon Basho) last 15 days, so kachikoshi requires a minimum of 8 wins.
  2. The maegashira are the rank-and-file wrestlers of the top division (makuuchi).
  3. The ranks in makuuchi are, from the bottom up: maegashira, komusubi, sekiwake, ozeki, and, since 1890, yokozuna.
  4. The 'kenshokin' - sponsored money awards handed to some wrestlers after a victory - are a slightly different matter, since the kenshokin vary in number, and can be placed on different bouts depending on who is meeting whom. See the writeup for details.
  5. A day in a sumo tournament starts with bouts between the lowest ranked wrestlers, and ends with the top of the top (see Basho)

My sources are, besides being glued to the TV whenever sumo is on,,

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