Grand Sumo Calendar

Many of the readers may already be experiencing the basho withdrawal jitters. Why is there nothing happening in the sumo world in June? Where is my sumo fix?

In order to help you prepare yourself in advance and ask your favorite shrink for the appropriate medications, I hereby introduce you to the Grand Sumo Calendar.


January

The first month of the year is a busy month.

hakuho-meiji-dohyo-iri

Between the 6th and the 8th of the month, “Hōnō-dohyō-iri” takes place. All active Yokozuna perform dohyo-iri at the Meiji jingu shrine as a dedication ensuring safety and peace for the oncoming basho and in this case, for the entire year.

This event is followed by the hanazumō event called “The all-japan rikishi-senshiken competition” which takes place at the Ryogoku kokugikan.

A YDC keiko-sōken also takes place at the kokugikan a few days before the basho. This is for the benefit of the YDC and NSK only, and is not open to the public.

Hatsu Basho

kokugikanJanuary is, of course, a honbasho month. The basho takes place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo. All honbasho are preceded by several events. The most notable is the banzuke announcement. Although the banzuke is decided shortly after the previous basho ends, other than important promotions (Juryo promotions, new Ozeki and Yokozuna) which require preparation on the part of the promotee and his heya, the contents of the banzuke are kept secret until the gyoji write the complete thing and its facsimile is prepared for printing.

  • The banzuke announcement for Hatsu Basho usually takes place at the end of December.
  • Rikishi-kai. It’s a gathering of the sekitori. Nowadays it hardly has any practical importance and it usually just serves as a photo-op for fans.
  • New recruit checkup takes place a few days before each basho. In January, there are usually relatively few new recruits.
  • Dohyo-tsuki – the preparation of the dohyo
  • Torikumi announcement for the first two days of the basho
  • Dohyo-matsuri – dedication of the dohyo – one day before the basho
  • Action!

After the basho ends, there are additional events that take place:

  • Regular meeting of the YDC to discuss the performance of existing Yokozuna and deliberate new promotions to Yokozuna if any
  • Banzuke meeting. This is when the banzuke is decided for the Osaka basho.

February

Short, cold month. Although it includes no basho and no jungyo, it includes several sumo-related events.

Setsubun

The Japanese festival of setsubun, in which the Japanese chase away demons and invite good luck in, features many high-profile rikishi throwing legumes (“mame-maki”) in various shrines around the country.

Hana-zumo

takayasu-nhk

Two main exhibition events take place in the beginning of February:

  • The NHK charity event. This features the usual hana-zumo schedule (sumo jinku, kiddie sumo, and of course, bouts), as well as popular rikishi singing along with professional singers. There are also fun interviews.
  • The Fuji TV sponsored “Japan Grand Sumo Tournament” which is a hana-zumo format event with an elimination-type set of bouts. Its special feature is usually famous retired rikishi doing “old boy” sumo.

The Hakuho Cup

This is a kiddie sumo event, organized by the Dai-Yokozuna since 2011. It features children from first grade up, coming from several different countries, competing in their respective age brackets at the Kokugikan.

Weddings

Because there is no Jungyo, many sekitori choose to have their wedding receptions in February and June, when it’s easier for their peers to attend events.

Health Checkups

Twice a year, rikishi as well as Yobidashi, Gyoji and Tokoyama, go through a set of health checks. Weight and height are checked, blood and urine sample are collected, and rikishi take turns at making miserable faces at media cameras when their blood is drawn.

There are also Tokoyama and Yobidashi practices, skip to June for more details.


March

edion-arenaMarch is when the Osaka basho takes place. In this case, at the EDION Arena in Osaka.

Away from Tokyo, there is no YDC soken in March. But a dedication dohyo-iri is preformed – this time, at the Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine in Osaka.

The new recruit checkups in March draw a lot of press and fan attention. In Japan, the school year starts in April, so March is when Middle and High School graduations occur, releasing many youngsters to follow their dreams in the world of professional sumo. This also means that there are many maezumo matches during the basho, and more than one presentation of shin-deshi wearing borrowed kesho-mawashi take place during the basho.


April

At this point in the calendar, the sekitori, together with their head tsukebito and a host of gyoji, yobidashi and shimpan, start doing the jungyo rounds. It’s the Haru Jungyo.

The rest of the rikishi – Makushita and below who are not tsukebito – stay a while longer at Osaka to wrap up, clean up and pack up, and then return to Tokyo (or wherever their heya is) to practice quietly.

yokozuna-ise-shrine

Haru jungyo includes visits to Ise Jingu as well as Yosukuni shrine. This involves not only Yokozuna dohyo-iri, but a full day of hōnō-zumō (dedication sumo) performed on fixed dohyo in the precincts of the shrines.

yasukuni-hono-zumo
Sekitori and Miko at Yasukuni Shrine

This visit to Yasukuni Shrine is usually an opportunity for the Jungyo participants to see a bit of home after having been almost two months away.

Nigiwai Matsuri

At the end of April (or the beginning of May), there is a festival called “Nigiwai Matsuri”, which takes place at Ryogoku, the neighborhood where the Kokugikan is located. Some of the activities take place inside the Kokugikan, and some street stalls feature rikishi and their heya’s chanko.


May

We’re back at the Kokugikan for the Natsu basho! Since we are back in Tokyo, the month begins with YDC Keiko-soken. But this time, the event is open to the public for free, and draws a lot of fans.

Cheering is not encouraged, but as you can hear for yourselves in this video, it’s really hard to control the crowd.

The soken is followed by the usual set of activities – new deshi checkups, dohyo dedication and everything leading up to honbasho.


June

June is a quiet month, with no Jungyo, and rainy weather. Unlike February, there are few activities. This is when you’ll see rikishi unwind a bit.

oguruma-beya-fishing

But rikishi don’t all rest, and those who do, don’t do so for any length of time. Many heya go on training camps outside of Tokyo. And somebody has to prepare dohyos and dorms:

temporary-dohyo

Tokoyama, Gyoji and Yobidashi practices

During the quiet months, Tokoyama practice their art – mainly creating oicho-mage. Yobidashi practice their calls and their drums, and Gyoji their calligraphy.

tokoyama-practice

The Tokoyama practice on rikishi ranked Makushita and below – provided, of course, that they have enough hair for oicho-mage. The rikishi have to suffer quite a bit as apprentices pull at their hair again and again.

In addition, weddings take place in June as they do in February.


July

aichi-perfectural-gymnasiumWhat do you know, it’s the Nagoya basho month! This basho takes place in Nagoya, at the Dolphins Arena (Also known as the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium).

Again, outside of Tokyo there is no keiko-soken. The usual events take place – recruit checkups, torikumi, dohyo dedication. All in all, the Nagoya basho is mostly known for being hot, humid, and prone to slippiotoshi. But hey, we get our sumo fix!


August

August is the time for the summer (Natsu) Jungyo. Again, straight out of Nagoya, usually with no stop in Tokyo, the sekitori and their tsukebito and other participants start traveling around the country, while the lower ranked rikishi pack up and go back to Tokyo.

The summer Jungyo ends with an event at a mall in Tokyo called KITTE. This event includes open interviews with leading rikishi, and fans gather on the various levels of the mall to enjoy sumo.

kitte-event

August is also when the second medical check-up takes place. Once again, rikishi blood is drawn, faces are made, and hopefully everybody is found healthy.


September

harumafuji-fish-ouch
Winner of last year’s Aki Basho. The things that can happen in just a few months.

It’s honbasho time again! This time it’s the Aki basho. We’re back in Tokyo, back at the Kokugikan, and back to the normal schedule. There is a YDC keiko-soken, but it’s not open to the public. There are shin-deshi, dohyo matsuri and all the rest of it – and of course, there is sumo.


October

Aki Jungyo, mostly touring parts of Kansai and Chugoku. Some of us would really like to forget Aki Jungyo 2017. I’m sure Takanoiwa would agree.


November

fukuoka-international-centerIt’s Kyushu basho. Shinkansen full of rikishi leave for Kyushu and various heya settle around Fukuoka for the last honbasho of the year.

The basho takes place at the International Center at Fukuoka. This basho has a little bit of a different flavor than other basho, with the local version of geisha – called geigi – making an appearance in the basho and serving drinks.

geigi-at-kyushu


December

Straight out of Fukuoka, the sekitori go on the winter (Fuyu) Jungyo. December is a cold month indeed, and therefore this Jungyo is usually not very long, and takes place in the southern regions – Kyushu and Okinawa.

rikishi-by-the-sea

At the end of December, you’ll see heya after heya making large piles of mochi – the sticky stuff that Japanese love to chew on or grill or put in various dishes.

mochi-tsuki

The traditional way to prepare mochi – if you don’t have a mochi machine, that is – is just like that, with big hammers and a wooden mortar. And what’s better than rikishi power to operate the thing?

17 thoughts on “Grand Sumo Calendar


  1. Thanks so much for the calendar of events. As an American, I tend to know little about anything that isn’t televised or somewhere on Youtube or on someone’s blog. Very very informative post. Thanks again.
    Forgive me if this is a dumb question, but are these guys, pretty much, good friends?( I see the occasional photo of them fishing or eating as a group). I know stablemates don’t wrestle one another, but can I assume friends will often wrestle one another? Are the Yokozuna all good friends? Are all the Mongolian wrestlers chummy? Are the Eastern European wrestlers buddies? Are the Japanese wrestlers from the same prefecture friendly? Can anyone mention wrestlers that they know for sure are really close? I don’t think NHK’s has ever pointed out such facts during a tournament. Thanks in advance for any and all responses.


    • OK, though I don’t know all of them, I believe the guys in the fishing pictures are all from Oguruma beya. Of course they do stuff together.

      But as the beach picture shows, rikishi from different heya are on pretty friendly terms. Takanohana oyakata is rather strict on this and doesn’t like his rikishi to be chummy with guys from other heya, because he doesn’t want to open the door to yaocho. But in the natural way things work, these guys get to spend a lot of time together during jungyo. Some also practice together in joint practices – withit the same ichimon or even outside it. Some were in the same school or the same university. These are young people, and they get on friendly terms.

      Mongolian rikishi in particular are considered a very tightly knit minority group. This is both a cultural thing and the natural result of being a group of people with similar backgrounds in the same profession in a foreign country. They help each other through illnesses and difficulties. They spend time together in Mongolian festivals. They even marry each others’ sisters sometimes. 🙂

      There is a sewage stream on Twitter and Youtube that accuses the Mongolian rikishi community, specifically the Mongolian Mutual Help Society, of being a “yaocho exchange club”. This is, of course, utter smut.

      Does no rikishi do a friend a favor and fight with a little less enthusiasm when that friend needs a kachi-koshi and he already has one? Regardless of nationality, I’m sure these things happen. Do these things get to the level where they pre-arrange it or even promise compensation? That happened as well in the past and the NSK is trying to prevent it. But I suspect you can’t actually stop people from being friendly, and that the whole fabric of the sumo world will be hurt if they actually manage to achieve that. Friendships mean that later on when they become oyakata they can work together on friendly terms. It makes for fewer violent incidences and more relaxed ways to settle problems. Besides, I’m sure people can be motivated to perform yaocho even if they are not high-school buddies or share the same cot in jungyo.


  2. Did Kisenosato still do the January event at the Meiji temple?

    I got to September/October and wanted to cry T_T I never even watched the final days of the November honbasho last year; I was just too depressed at it all =-\


    • Yes, he most certainly did. This year’s event was a bit odd. Hakuho was in the middle of a storm and barely got a “yoisho” when he stomped. Kakuryu and Kisenosato got applause but in general the crowd was thinner than the year before. These were all the effect of that September/October… thing…


  3. Love the article! But love the beach photo even more! Does anyone know who the rikishi are in that image? Is that Kotoshogiku in the middle? 😀


  4. You have excelled yourself. This article needs to go in the “Features” menu for future reference.


  5. Who are the best Rikishi to follow on social media? Ishiura is pretty good if you like pics of cute babies. Okinoumi posts lots of pics of delicious food.


    • I like following lower-ranked rikishi, because they are not as cautious about their posts. Also, many of them have this “Peing question box” thing where people ask them questions and they answer, and sometimes you can learn interesting stuff about heya life from that. Of course, you need to be able to read Japanese. Tomokaze is the source of that fishing picture, and generally posts fun stuff from Oguruma.

      I hear that Abi on Instagram is fun to follow. His Twitter posts are mostly links to Instagram. Hokutofuji posts cautiously, mostly food and gifts he either received or gave. Toyonoshima is a frequent and relatively easygoing poster.

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