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The Bow Twirling Ceremony

Once upon a time in Japan, during the Edo Period, a bow was given to a successful sumo wrestler at the end of a tournament day. The sumotori was so happy to receive the bow that he twirled it around, making quite a show of it.

That is - in short - the story at least, behind the "bow twirling ceremony" - Yumitorishiki - which is performed on the dohyo after the last bout of each day during a sumo basho (tournament). These days the ceremony is performed by the same sumotori every time as a show of gratitude or satisfaction on behalf of the victorious wrestlers of the day.

The yumitori - the wrestler performing the ceremony - is usually a lower ranking rikishi (makushita or even lower1), often he will be tsukebito of the Grand Master, the yokozuna. He will be wearing a beautiful keshomawashi (a heavy silk "apron") lent to him for the occasion by the Nihon Sumo Kyokai. His hair will also be shaped into the elaborate fan-like top knot oichomage. Normally a wrestler must be sekitori, ie. in the juryo division or higher, to be allowed to wear either keshomawashi or oichomage, but an exception is made for the yumitori.

  1. The divisions are, from the bottom up: maezumo (not included in the banzuke), jonokuchi, jonidan, sandanme, makushita, juryo, and makuuchi.

A few explanatory remarks:
  • Mawashi - the "thong" sumo wrestlers wear. The apron you see occasionally is a keshomawashi.
  • Oichomage - the hairdo of a sumo wrestler when he is in formal attire (or on the dohyo)
  • Dohyo - well, it's the fighting arena. The dohyoiri is the "ring opening ceremony"
  • Sumotori (sumo wrestler), and rikishi (strong man), can be used interchangeably.
  • A basho will (almost) always be construed as one of the fifteen-day tournaments, held every odd numbered month.
  • When a rikishi retires, a special ceremony is held: The danpatsushiki.
  • The referees on the dohyo are the gyoji; the black clad judges are called shimpan. The yobidashi are the helpers.

Some of my sources are, besides being glued to the TV whenever sumo is on, http://sumo.goo.ne.jp/eng and http://www.sumoforum.net/glossary.html.

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