Kyokai Video: Updating Sumo Scoreboard

The Kyokai shared a great video that provides insights into some behind-the-scenes processes. Visitors to Kokugikan will have seen the scoreboards. These backlit screens display the Juryo and Makuuchi bouts, reading from right to left, as well as listing any kyujo wrestlers (far left). A win is indicated with a red light next to the victor’s name. The kimarite is also indicated on the far right. They’re called “denkōban.” We’ve all seen this…but how does it get updated each night?

The video is great but unfortunately it’s captioned in Japanese and not in English. There are some great little tidbits in there that I wanted to makes sure to share. After the day’s action is completed, and after the bow-twirling ceremony, the clean-up crew comes in to prepare for the next day and one team comes in to update the scoreboards. Their main piece of equipment is a big, ole, lop-sided ladder.

The first little factoid that many of you probably already know is that the tiles are hand-written by gyoji. If calligraphy work is needed, like with the banzuke and this scoreboard, that’s the work of gyoji.

Secondly, the East and West sides are alternated each day. If you pay attention to the yobidashi, in particular, you’ll see that on alternating days they’ll come up on the dohyo from the East, or the West to announce the wrestlers for each bout. So it makes sense that the scoreboard order would be consistent. On odd-numbered days, the East names are on top since they’re read out first. On even-numbered days, the West names are on top.

The video here comes from Aki, I believe, before Terunofuji went kyujo. We see the plates changed from his Day 6 bout with Ura to his Day 7 bout against Ichinojo. The worker goes up and down, up and down, over and over, updating the acrylic plates. Then they validate the change and move over to the other scoreboard on the other side to repeat the process.

Safety First

I want to make a quick note about the safety culture. If this were me, I’d probably walk out there alone with a rickety, wooden ladder. Or even better, I’d go to the upper deck and hang over the edge to swap them out real quick. Safety First, or 安全第一, is a common slogan in Japan. You see it at various work places, especially construction sites, around the country. Earthquakes, typhoons, and landslides are pretty common so it’s no surprise that safety is a focus. So it doesn’t surprise me that the worker has two colleagues securing the base of his ladder, they all wear helmets, and that he even clips into the ladder. That’s quite different than this old picture we’ve got here of the worker updating the kyujo board, with no helmet.

I’m pretty happy to see that over the last year safety has been more of a focus on the dohyo, and maybe off the dohyo, too. But, as we saw with this recent yusho play-off, there is still some work to do. Thankfully, Abi won against Takakeisho. If he had lost, I’m not sure if Takayasu would have been in condition to fight. So the Kyokai possibly dodged a bullet there with Abi’s win. Let’s face it, it’s a contact sport and injuries are a part of the game. When those injuries happen, the athletes need confidence that they’re in good hands…and we fans want to know that, too. I like that the Kyokai is moving in the right direction; it’s a far cry from three years ago (Takayasu was at the center of one of those “uncomfortable” moments) but let’s keep it up!

9 thoughts on “Kyokai Video: Updating Sumo Scoreboard

  1. As usual, another very informative and great article by Tachia. Thank you !!!

    But i’m gonna be the scapegoat here for everyone else and shout the obvious question that everyone can’t stop thinking and asking themselves while reading this…..

    Why in the world didn’t they updated that old scoreboard contraption to a more technological advanced, efficiant and safer system like a digital scorboard !!!!

    Yeah yeah, i know…. Traditions…traditions……
    But heck…..we are not talking here about changing the way they display and keep score. Just the mean they use to do it.

    A remote controled, digital scoreboard would just make all that dangerous climbing totaly unnecessary. (Or the very least rare. Because there is always maintenance to do.)
    And it would be a lot more quicker to update/correct if an error is made. i don’t see why they don’t do it since they already partialy do it lighting up light remotely for winners and all.

    If tradition require gyogis to do handcrafted writting for the name of the rikishi. That is also fine ! They could always do it. But they could then just scan that writting on the paper, and display that picture in the rectangle monitor. (Heck again, they could also just re-use the same digitalized name picture for that rikishi after that if they think that the writting is just perfect. Less work for them. Would only need to do it for newcommer rikishi.)

    It’s like if today, we would still see a poor guy climbing and changing manualy the score with wooden numbered pallets on a baseball field each inning. Or for lifting the wooden roof shrine above the dohyo, they would refuse to use hydrolic mecanic device and just do it with pure human bare arms strengh by pulling on a rope. (Like old sailors on a boat.) Oh gods ! >_<

  2. The current process seems pretty simple, as-is. Digital technologies aren’t without their own headaches… primarily maintenance issues. This method has zero chance of screen burn-in, for example. No need to replace a whole OLED screen because a section went dark. Sometimes analog ain’t bad.

  3. The almost non-existent medical care at sumo bashos never ceases to amaze me.

    Where I live, for a simple judo tournament at district level, you need two paramedics on site, and at state level you also need a doctor. And if they are all busy, all other mats will be shut down for the time being to be on the safe side.

    In professional sumo, you just lie down for a while and then your remains are wheeled out in a wheelchair.

  4. Nicely done, Andy! I always wonder how the scoreboard was kept up — since I don’t know a lick of Japanese, and you gave very insightful knowledge!

  5. Speaking of updating public displays of sumo information… Andy – when you get a moment, the ‘Next Basho’ display needs updating on this website!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.