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The dohyoiri is the ring entering ceremony; one of many ceremonies taking place during a sumo tournament (basho). It is a ceremony that introduces all the wrestlers (rikishi (lit. "strong man") or sumotori) to the audience. There are two dohyoiri on a tournament day, as the two top divisions (juryo and makuuchi) each have their own ceremony.

Dohyoiri step by step:
Makuuchi Dohyoiri
The topmost division, makuuchi, consists of (no more than) 42 sumotori, divided into an east (higashi) and a west (nishi) section. Thus there are 21 sumotori in each section. The yokozuna (the Grand Champion) does not participate in the makuuchi dohyoiri, as they have their own ceremony, immediately after the makuuchi ceremony.1.

The procession of rikishi2, lowest ranks3 first, walks down the aisle from their dressingrooms, dressed in colourful silk aprons called keshomawashi. One by one they bow to the shimpan (the judge) and climb onto the dohyo, once their name and heya (training school) has been called out loud by the yobidashi (the ushers). They position themselves around the ring (the shobudawara), front to the audience, until all have been called. Then they turn to face inwards and go through a series of moves to show that they are unarmed, clap to get the gods' attention, and expel evil spirits from the dohyo by flicking the keshomawashi4.

On the occasions when members of the Imperial Family (or the Emperor himself) is present, the dohyoiri is executed somewhat differently: instead of taking up positions around the shobudawara, the sumotori arrange themselves in rows on the dohyo, facing the Imperial seats.

When they are finished, they leave the dohyo and return to their dressing room. The east and west sumotori's dohyoiri are performed separately, so it all takes quite a long time.

Yokozuna Dohyoiri
When the makuuchi dohyoiri is over, it is time for the yokozuna to enter. He will have an entourage of two high-ranking sumotori - usually from his own heya or at least the same ichimon (group5). The first in the procession is the tsuyuharai (the dew-sweeper or herald); then comes the yokozuna with a heavy white hemp-rope (yoko tsuna) tied around the waist; last comes the tachimochi (the sword bearer).

On the dohyo they take up their stations: the yokozuna at the eastern6 tokudawara ("point of virtue"), the tachimochi to his right, and the tsuyuharai to his left. They crouch down, and the yokozuna begins his routines.

There are two different routines: Unryu and Shiranui. Yokozuna Asashoryu, like the last four yokozuna, performes Unryu, while Yokozuna Hakuho performes Shiranui. The moves differ in a very subtle way (If you don't know it, you'll never spot it!): Unryu-style keep one arm bent after the first shiko (the characteristic stomping motion of the sumotori), while Shiranui have both arms stretched. Apart from the differences in moves, the two styles can be told apart by the way the tsuna is tied, with one large bow on the back for Unryu, and two bows for Shiranui. Former Yokozuna Wakanohana was committed to Shiranui.

After the stomping and clapping the sumotori and the gyoji (the referee, who has been standing in his usual place, by the south tokudawara) bow to each other, and the party leave in the same way they came. The action can begin.

An interesting fact...
Quite another kind of dohyoiri takes place in a small town, Ryugatake, on the island of Amakusaue. During the Meji era (1868 - 1912) a ritual was invented, alledgedly to cure the townspeople of dysentery. Infants were carried around a dohyo by their fathers (or by a sumotori) while the gyoji called the babies' names. The ceremony is still performed, only now it is supposed to bring good health, rich harvest, and a plentiful catch of fish.

  1. If there are more than one yokozuna, the number of wrestlers in the lower ranks will be adjusted to keep the numbers in the east and west section as even - and as close to 21 - as possible.
  2. The dohyoiri for juryo division is much the same, so I shall not go in to it. Imagine the same scenario, only with 14 lower ranked wrestlers, shimpan, gyoji, and yobidashi...
  3. The ranks are: maegashira 17 through to 1, komusubi, sekiwake, and ozeki.
  4. The flick of the keshomawashi has replaced the shiko (leg lifting and stomping).
  5. The 52 heyas are arranged in five ichimon.
  6. If there is only one yokozuna, he is east.

My sources are www.sumo.or.jp/eng and excessive TV-watching. Oh and www.okada.de/culture/hatsubasho/hatsubasho-e.htm has great pictures and good comments.

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