Kisenosato Exhibit at Ryogoku Kokugikan

Sumo Museum - Kisenosato Exhibit Banners
Banners outside Kokugikan advertising the Kisenosato Exhibit in the Sumo Museum

While the name Kisenosato may have disappeared from the banzuke, the man himself continues to still be very much present in the world of sumo. Whether it’s making TV appearances or being visible at training in his new role as Araiso-oyakata, the man whose elevation to Yokozuna took sumo popularity to new heights continues to be a central figure within the sumo world.

Accordingly, merchandise and social media activations continue to be popular at honbasho, and the NSK has pulled another big look into the career of the 72nd Yokozuna out of the hat with a collaborative exhibit now taking place in the Sumo Museum inside of the hallowed walls of Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The Sumo Association has worked with the former Kisenosato to take items from his storied career on loan so that fans can get an up close look. The Museum is located near the entrance of Kokugikan, and is open from 10am to 430pm with free entrance on non-basho days (last entrance 4pm), and all day while the tournament is in session, with entrance restricted to ticket holders.

Unfortunately, photos are extremely prohibited inside of the museum. However, I went to Kokugikan today to have a look. With another sold-out tournament on the horizon, I figured this would be the best chance to savor the experience without having to battle the match day crowds.

Sumo Museum - Kisenosato Exhibit entrance
This is as far as you can get while taking photos – they are banned in the Sumo Museum

Items on Display

There’s no question the Association has done a great job working with Kisenosato to curate this exhibit. Those able to get to the exhibit will have a chance to see the following:

  • Kisenosato’s Unryu-style tsuna rope.
  • An akeni lacquer wicker trunk used by the Yokozuna.
  • A purple hikae-zabuton used by Kisenosato during a basho – these are the large cushions which you’ll see the rikishi sit on at the side of the dohyo while they await their turn to take the ring. Assistants take to make sure each rikishi’s personal hikae-zabuton is transported in and out of the main room of the arena before the rikishi enters from the shitakubeya dressing room.
  • Five sets of kesho-mawashi all used by Kisenosato and his attendants during honbasho and other events where he performed his dohyo-iri (ring entering ceremony). Some of these were quite stunning to see up close, particularly those that had one consistent design woven as a triptych across three aprons. Kisenosato’s collection featured a beautiful landscape scene, a striking red Mt Fuji against a black background, manga heroes, and more.
  • Tachi swords and kimono used by the Yokozuna.
  • A filthy old training mawashi, tabi (japanese style socks) and setta (sandals).
  • Photos from throughout his career:
    • His debut in sumo
    • Kisenosato with his former stable master Naruto (ex-Yokozuna Takanosato).
    • Kisenosato snapping Hakuho’s 63-match winning streak.
    • Deploying a kotenage while injured to beat Terunofuji in the epic playoff to seal his second and final yusho in Haru 2017.
    • His retirement and ascension to Araiso-oyakata
    • Visiting his supporters in Ibaraki Prefecture to thank them for their support during his career, and more.
  • Banzuke from throughout key moments in his career:
    • His banzuke debut in Jonokuchi, with a helpful arrow pointing out the tiny writing where he is listed under his original name Hagiwara.
    • His first banzuke at Maegashira, Ozeki and Yokozuna level, along with photos of him receiving those promotions.
  • A dark maroon shimekomi including the stiffened sagari cords with his shikona embroidered on the top – the craftsmanship that goes into even the small details is really amazing.
  • Goods and merchandise from throughout his career.

Visitors to the Sumo Museum at Kokugikan will know there is typically a TV in the room playing highlights of great moments from past basho. During the exhibit, this TV is playing all Kisenosato highlights, from his earliest moments before his hair was long enough for a top-knot all the way through to his retirement press conference.

Kisenosato/Araiso continues to be a hugely popular figure in the sumo world, so it is really great that the Association has continued to make efforts to curate events like this in order to provide moments for fans to connect with the sport.

The sport does and always will evolve. To be sure, not every retiring rikishi or even retiring Yokozuna will be afforded the treatment given to the 72nd Yokozuna Kisenosato, but the current exhibit is a fitting testament to his contributions to sumo. I would certainly encourage anyone visiting Tokyo in the near future to get over to the Kokugikan and check it out.

9 thoughts on “Kisenosato Exhibit at Ryogoku Kokugikan

    • Probably not that many—of his 12 second-place finishes, he finished runner-up to Harumafuji (twice), Kakuryu, and Terunofuji.

    • It’s a subjective thing for sure, and I think diversity in the field of yusho winners is definitely good.

      But who would I have rather have bought tickets to see? Even in Kisenosato’s prime I’d still pick Hakuho. It’s hard to say Kisenosato got fewer yusho than he deserved, or that Hakuho got more.

      The injury feels more sad to me than the presence of Hakuho, and I think he would have got more if not for that. You have to beat the best to be the best.

  1. yes, let’s go James Bond (or Maxwell Smart) with a hidden lapel camera or bag camera! LOL
    seriously tho, sounds like a fabulous exhibit

  2. Visited the area on Wednesday around noon to complete my rikishi postcard collection and to buy a banzuke sheet (I think Hakkaku was also present in the office). Many older Japanese people around who bought some Kisenosato merchandise, and- if I got that right, tickets for his danpatsu shiki – there is also a poster for this as you already know for the 29.09., and the one on 28.09. for the rikishi who also retired recently (sorry I do not know his name but I am sure you know who I mean). Naruto oyakata was also there, but I could not ask for a photo because he was talking with the staff.
    As I’ve been a sumo fan for just 1 year, I could not follow Kisenosatos development, but it always made me sad and upset how some “fans” talked about him before his retirement, gave him names like fake-yokozuna, the weakest yokozuna ever and that he only became and stayed yokozuna because he is Japanese and so on, and other offending things.
    And now – interesting how things changed – he is treated with all the respect and appreciation he always deserved. So, thanks to all who always believed in him.

    • I’ve had trouble finding the details online, but I’m going to be back at Kokugikan tomorrow for the dohyo consecration so I will update the post accordingly if I can find out.

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