Pearl Of The Day: Chikara-mizu in the Musubi-no-ichiban

Before every bout, the wrestlers about to engage need to purify themselves. For this purpose, there is a bucket of water on either side of the dohyo. Below the dohyo, a rikishi awaits. The yobidashi hands him a ladle and a piece of paper, and he hands first the ladle, then the paper to the rikishi on the dohyo. The receiver rinses his mouth with the water, and spits it under the cover of that piece of paper into a spittoon built into the corner of the dohyo.

Ryuden hands chikara-mizu to Kagayaki

This water is called chikara-mizu, “power water”. The rikishi that hands it is supposed to be untainted by loss that day. The rule is usually very simple. On the side where the previous rikishi won, that winner presents the ladle. On the side that lost, the rikishi who is scheduled to play in the next bout on that side, and has neither won nor lost as yet, delivers the water.

Consider a part of today’s (Haru day 4) schedule:

East West
Abi Daieisho
Kagayaki Yoshikaze
Chiyomaru Hokutofuji

So, in the bout between Kagayaki and Yoshikaze, Abi, who won his bout, hands water to Kagayaki, while Yoshikaze gets the water from Hokutofuji.

This is how things go until the last match, the musubi-no-ichiban. But that’s where it gets complicated. There is no “next player” who can offer the ladle. What happens then?

For this purpose, the last winner on both sides is supposed to stick around. But of course, you can’t just keep someone around forever, denying him his bath and relaxation, just because five people after him on the same side were rude enough to lose their bout. It’s usually just the second-to-last who stays around.

We had exactly that situation today. Chiyotairyu, achieving his first win today, was the last wrestler on the west to win. Ichinojo, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, Goeido – all of them on the west, all of them lost. So who was to hand the water to Arawashi?

So here is the pearl of the day:


This is something we rarely get to see. First, because us foreigners mostly watch highlights and digest reels, which omit the chikara-mizu ceremony altogether. But also because the standard procedure for the TV broadcast is to only show the losing rikishi briefly as he bows and leaves, and then concentrate on the winner of the last bout as he waits with the ladle in his hands. So we rarely see what’s going on at the losing side at all.

What you see here is Arawashi’s tsukebito, Hikarugenji, handing him the chikara-mizu. That’s not an improvisation – it’s standard procedure. And as the ceremony is supposed to be performed wearing a mawashi, and there is no time for the aforesaid tsukebito to change back into his mawashi, he symbolically adjusts his kimono to expose one shoulder – and apparently, one leg – so he can be considered “naked”.

(Much obliged to the originator of that tweet, Nii-san, for taking the time to look up the reason for the change in the kimono for me).

11 thoughts on “Pearl Of The Day: Chikara-mizu in the Musubi-no-ichiban

  1. Stuff like this is why I love sumo. So much to learn and appreciate. Many thanks Herouth and for increasing my understanding on a regular basis.

    Now, if someone could tell me what the two gold bars on Takayasu’s mawashi are all about… I’ve been pondering that one for two bashos now!

      • Interesting. I know some rikishi have training in other martial arts; I’m trying to recall if Takayasu is one of them. I’m still surprised there is any ornamentation at all on his mawashi—didn’t realize that was even allowed.

        • Oh, no…it was my attempt at a bad joke. The stripes remind me of the ones on karate belts. An answer that my wife discovered was that it’s the mark of the mawashi maker but I’m trying to find confirmation. It would be odd to just see that mark on one mawashi and none of the others.

          • I tend to think that it’s just a matter of how the mawashi tip is folded. The mark may exist in all mawashi but hidden in the knot or the front fold.

    • I’ve been wondering the same thing too. And Takayasu is not the only one with the golden bars. Hokutofuji, Takarafuji, Chiyotairyu and I think Sohozan, have the golden bars too.
      And Kisenosato had them too.
      I hope we’ll eventually find out.

      • Ah, it makes more sense if it’s some mark of the mawashi maker. Now I will have to look for them on the mawashi of the other rikishi Gabriela mentions. And sorry I didn’t get Andy’s joke!

  2. Pearl of the Day color commentary should become a staple of basho coverage. Sumos wonderful history and traditions is what first drew me to the sport. Nice catch, Herouth!!!