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300 lbs of poetry
The shikona is the name a sumotori (sumo wrestler) adopts as his "ring name". The names are often very poetic, ranging from "Flower of Youth" (Wakanohana: 若之花 ) to "Red Dragon of the Morning" (Asasekiryu: 朝赤龍 ). The names are designed to indicate superiority (or a wish for same), respect, beauty and grace, strength, and so forth.

The shikona will often be presented to the sumotori by his oyakata (the master of his training school) around the point where he enters sumo. A few sumotori choose to wrestle under their own name (surname), and there are no rules against that. At the moment Kakizoe and Dejima are the two sumotori in makuuchi1 (the top division in sumo) figting under their own names, while Ishide resently took the shikona "Hero" (Shunketsu: 俊傑 ), probably in honour of his oyakata, former Ozeki Kaiketsu ("Wonderman": 怪傑 ).

It is not uncommon to see the sumotori change their shikona at least once during their career. One reason can be that there is a certain amount of superstition involved; if a sumotori is going through a bad patch, losing a lot, a change of shikona just might be the thing. Another - and maybe the most prevalent - reason is that once a wrestler becomes successful, his oyakata may want for him to have a name associated more closely to the heya (training school); he might even give him his own former shikona2.

Shikona have been known to be passed on from father to son, or from uncle to nephew, as was the case with the renowned shikona, Takanohana and Wakanohana. The 45th Yokozuna Wakanohana Kanji gave his shikona to his pupil, the 56th yokozuna, and later to his nephew, the 66th yokozuna. His brother Takanohana gave his shikona to his son, the 65th Yokozuna Takanohana. (It should be noted that only one active wrestler at a time can use a specific shikona).

A small selection of shikona:

  • Kotoryu: ( 琴龍 ) "Harp of the Dragon"
  • Kyokutenho: ( 旭天鵬 ) "The Sun Rises to the Heavens like a Phoenix" (The English translation doesn't exactly roll off the tongue).
  • Konishiki: ( 小錦 ) "Little Brocade"3
  • Asashoryu: ( 朝青龍 ) "Blue Dragon of the Morning"
  • Sentoryu: ( 戦闘竜 ) "War dragon" (This wrestler originated from St. Louis, which, when pronounced in Japanese, will sound a lot like "sentoryu"...)
  • Ama: ( 安馬 ) "Peaceful Horse" (This is a little play on words: ama is the antonym to jajauma, which means "unruly woman" (or "restive horse").

  1. The divisions are, from the bottom up: maezumo (not included in the banzuke), jonokuchi, jonidan, sandanme, makushita, juryo, and makuuchi.
  2. When a wrestler retires, eg. to be a coach or a master, he gives up his shikona, and often assumes yet a new name.
  3. There have been at least two sumotori by the name Konishiki, one of whom weighed just around 600 lbs.

My main sources are, besides being glued to the TV whenever sumo is on, www.scgroup.com/sumo, sumo.goo.ne.jp/eng, and http://sumoforum.net/glossary.html
I have also found www.sumoforum.net and www.sumotalk.com very interesting.

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