Shiko Funjatta (Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t): Sumo on the Big Screen

Sumo Do, Sumo Don't - Auckland - Eventfinda

For a sport thousands of years old, there is a surprising lack of sumo representation on the big screen. While there a few documentary-style films out there, such as ones following the careers of Wakanohana and Kyokutaisei, sumo tends to be relegated to the background, as a quick way to establish the Japanese-ness of a setting or location. A prime example of this can be found in 1967’s You Only Live Twice, where a sumo match is one of the first sights James Bond takes after arriving in the land of the rising sun. In most cases, when sumo is mentioned, it is typically the butt of a joke or presented in such a fashion that would make any fan of the sport roll their eyes in disgust. While fully fleshed-out representations of sumo are few and far between, when they do hit the big screen they do so with tremendous effect. A prime example of such a film is the 1992 comedy Shiko Funjatta, also known by its English title Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t.

There will be spoilers throughout this review, so if you haven’t seen the film and would like to, I have included a link to it here. For English subtitles, be sure to turn captions on.

Shiko Funjatta is set at Kyoritsu University, where protagonist Shuhei Yamamoto has decided to take the easy route and accepting a job at his uncle’s company. To do so, however, Shuheu needs Professor Anayama, his thesis supervisor, to give him the credits he is missing so that he can graduate early. Anayama agrees, but only under the condition that Shuhei helps the sumo club by participating in an upcoming tournament. Shuhei initially objects, but the club’s manager, the beautiful media student Natsuko Kawamura, convinces him to join. Shuhei quickly learns that the deal he cut with Anayama was too good to be true. Not only is the sumo club in dire straights, but’s its sole member, Aoki Tomio, has never won a match despite delaying his graduation multiple years to keep the club afloat. When asked why he would put his life on hold for the failing club, Aoki admits that he is a diehard sumo fan and has a great deal of respect for Anayama, the club’s most decorated former member.

After helping Shuhei into a mawashi (which he mistakenly called a jockstrap much to Aoki’s annoyance) the two set out to recruit new members, as they will need at least two more to compete in the tournament. It is here that the pair meet the hapless Hosaku Tanaka, a timid man who is constantly dripping with sweat. Despite his shyness, Aoki believes Tanaka to be a natural rikishi due to his sturdy, shuffling walk. Aoki and Shuhei aren’t the only ones searching for new members. Manager Natsuko is also out scouting a puroresu show put on by the school’s wrestling team, where she sees Haruo, who is reluctantly being forced to wrestle under the guise of a cross-dressing character. Haruo joins the sumo team, where it is revealed that he is Shuhei’s younger brother. With four members, the Kyoritsu club can now officially compete.

Sumo Do Sumo Don't (Shiko funjatta) (1992) - Ázsiafilm

The tournament goes disastrously for the team. Shuhei and Haruo are easily out skilled, while Tanaka’s fear makes him freeze up during the match. The most embarrassing loss goes to Aoki, who gets uncontrollable bouts of diarrhea under presser that force him to forfeit his bouts. As a result, the club loses all of its matches, those to the tournament champions from Hokuto University. At a dinner following the tournament, the club is berated by Kyoritsu alumni and former teammates of Professor Anayama for their shameful effort. Despite his promise to Anayama being fulfilled, a fiery Shuhei declares that the net time they compete, they will win the tournament. To help motivate the team, Natsuko uses her media connections to arrange for the local news station to do a story on the Kyoritsu Sumo club. To further improve their chances, Aoki and Shuhei try and convince Refrigerator, the captain of the football team, to join the sumo club but he turns them down. Instead, Refrigerator points them in the direction of a foreign exchange student from Britain named Smiley. a powerful rugby player, Smily initially turns them down and derides sumo, but he changes his mind and joins the club after Aoki promises him free board and food at the club’s dormitory, though with the condition that he be allowed to wear shorts under his mawashi.

As a result of their TV appearance, the Kyoritsu sumo club has gained significant popularity, especially amongst female students who come to practices to try and catch a glimpse of Haruo. One such observer is Masako Mamiya, who leaves the practice after catching the other girls mocking her for her weight. While sitting in the university’s courtyard, she has a chance encounter with Professor Anayama, and she begs him to let her join the club as a cook and manager. After several weeks of practice, Professor Anayama takes the entire sumo team on a vacation to his hometown for a summer training camp. Despite the reputation of Anayama’s “hell camp” the team is told to do nothing but relax during their stay, which they do with the exception of Tanaka who continues to train. It is during this trip that Haruo admits to Natsuko that he bears secret feelings for her, but she turns him down. After several more days of nothing but eating and sleeping, Anayama reveals that he only brought the club to camp to make them gain weight without them knowing, as more weight will help them win their matches. He also tells them that he has arranged a practice session with Hokuto University, who are holding their training camp nearby. This turns out to be another ruse by Anayama, for instead of Hokuto University, the local children’s sumo team arrives to practice with the club. Initially overwhelmed by the children, Anayama coaches each club member on how to concur their weaknesses, and for the first time, the Kyoritsu team achieves success on the dohyo.

This success is short-lived, however, as the Hokuto club crashes the training session, leading to a brawl that ultimately leaves the Kyoritsu team banged up and mawashi-less. Fresh off another humiliation, the Kyoritsu team trains harder than ever until the day of the tournament arrives. The news crew that first covered their training sessions has returned and provided colourful mawashi for the team to wear, and while the tournament organizers have no issue with this they do have a problem with Smiley wearing shorts with his mawashi. Smiley refuses to take the shorts off, preferring to forfeit his matches rather than go bare. Even without Smiley, the new and improved Kyoritsu team lead by Shuhei, Haruo, and Tanaka, advance up the bracket until the final against Hokuto University.

เล่นไป...ยิ้มไป กับ 6 หนังกีฬาฮาเฮ อุ่นเครื่องก่อนชม Balls of Fury ...
From left to right: Smiley, Haruo, Shuhei, Natsuko, Tanaka (behind), and Aoki.

In their first match, Haruo loses and breaks his arm and a distraught Masako carries him off to get medical attention. After a quick loss by Tanaka, Kyoritsu is in a tough spot and must win the final three bouts. Inspired by the hard work of his teammates, Smiley decides to fight without his shorts rather than forfeit the entire tournament and gives his team their first win. The pressure is now on Aoki to keep Kyoritsu hopes alive, and like always he is hit by a bout of diarrhea. Just as the tachiai happens, Aoki suddenly clenches his entire body, and in doing so knocks his opponent out, tying the score 2-2. It all comes down to Shuhei, who in a climactic finish, withstands the overwhelming assault of the Hokuto captain and wins the tournament for Kyoritsu University.

While the tournament may be over, the Kyoritsu team has a chance to compete for a spot in the next division of university sumo. Knowing that their opponents will field at least seven men, and with Haruo out of commission, Professor Anayama decides not to try for the next division. This prompts Masako, who despite being a woman and thus barred from the tournament, begs him to let her compete in Haruo’s place. Anayama gives in and with Refrigerator joining the team as well, Kyoritsu takes on the imposing Daitoa University. In the opening match, Masako, now going under the name Mamiya and wearing heavy bandages over her chest, fights valiantly for Haruo but ultimately loses her match. Refrigerator also loses, but Smiley, Tanaka, and Aoki win hard-fought bouts to give their team the edge. Just like in the tournament finals, everything comes down to Shuhei. Nearly half the size of his opponent, Anayama tells Shuhei that under no circumstances is he to let go of his challenger’s mawashi. Several times, Shuhei comes a hair away from losing, but he refuses to give up and continues to fight on until he is pushed right to the tawara. In a stunning, last-ditch effort, Shuhei executes a perfect izori kimarite, completely flipping his opponent over his head to win it all for his Kyoritsu University.

Following their big win, Aoki finally graduates, Tanaka decides to join professional sumo, and Smiley returns to Britain. Haruo and Masako agree to meet up with him in London, as they have decided to move there together to finish their schooling. Rather than leave for his cushy office job, Shuhei decides to remain at Kyoritsu University for another year to keep the sumo club alive. As the film ends, he and manager Natsuko practice shiko on the dohyo, hinting at a budding relationship between the two.

Sumo Do, Sumo Don't.1992.Vietsub – PHƯƠNG PHIÊU DIÊU

While the concept of a team of misfits banding together to overcome adversity and win the championship is a well-worn plot device, Shiko Funjatta adds just enough charm and quirkiness to result in a heartwarming, enjoyable movie experience. As far as a representation of sumo on the big screen, Shiko Funjatta not only highlights some of the sports most important characteristics, such as determination, hard work, and fighting spirit but also teases out some of the more humorous aspects of sumo in a way that doesn’t belittle the sport. Shiko Funjatta went on to have tremendous critical success in Japan, winning several awards such as best picture and best director at the ’92 Japan Academy Awards. Given the film’s success, it is quite surprising that there have been so few genuine representations of sumo in media. I believe that the sumo world still has many stories to tell, and hopefully one day those stories will make it to the big screen.

Keiko Peers

A few days ago I posted a visualization about Heya. I gave it the “Banzuke Dashboard” slot under the Data Tools menu above. I will also embed it at the end of this post but I wanted to play around with an idea reader Bbbut had in the comments section. This visualization digs further into the issue Herouth raised about worthy practice opponents for the heya-gashira (部屋頭), or top-ranked rikishi of a stable.

I set two baselines, one at approximate Juryo level, the other at approximately the Makuuchi level. A few interesting things come out. While Sadogatake stable doesn’t have any sanyaku wrestlers and seems to have faded a bit with the decline of Kotoshogiku and the yo-yo rise and fall of Kotoeko and Kotoyuki, the stable has a slew of fairly even ranked wrestlers. Kokonoe stable is also duking it out with Sadogatake and Oitekaze for “The Dawg Pound” moniker as the dog-eat-dog internal competition for status must be fierce.

With the default setting I used for the visualization, Ishiura is a peer of Hakuho and Hoshoryu is a peer of Meisei. In the latter case, we get a sense of the difference in quality from Herouth’s tweet below. Use the slider feature at the bottom to tighten or relax that “peer buffer.”

This is also useful to look into competition at stables with no sekitori, like Otake, Shibatayama and Naruto. I’m interested in what feedback you all may have for how to tweak the buffer. Looking at Sakaigawa, for example, I got the idea for a “veteran boost” calculation. Toyohibiki has been in makushita division for a while now but he has serious sekitori experience, having won three Juryo titles and spending nearly a decade in the top ranks. Despite the injuries and lack of mobility, he will still have a wealth of technique pointers to offer many of the youngsters. Myogiryu is a grizzled vet himself, though.

I have not updated this for the Natsu banzuke or with the various retirements. Toyonoshima, for example, is still in my Tokitsukaze listing. Even in retirement, though, he will still have a lot of experience to offer Shodai and Yutakayama.

Kanji Used In Shikona

The NHK has a great video (#43) about shikona in its “Sumopedia” but I thought I’d dive a bit into the statistics on the usage of various characters. Why? Because I’m always trying to improve my Japanese and the kanji is the most impenetrable part for me.

The Japanese Language is one of the biggest hurdles facing any sumo fan. If you’re just trying to catch up on news, few media outlets outside of Japan cover the sport on a regular basis and the Japanese Sumo Association often offers its press releases only in Japanese. There’s a whole other world to sumo fandom if you can learn the language. However, we don’t need to learn THE WHOLE LANGUAGE. We need to learn SUMO Japanese. It’s still a difficult prospect but it seems the best place to begin is with the shikona and just a handful of shikona can take us a long way.

First of all, a brief detour. The word Shikona is 四股名. Shiko, the “sumo stomp” excercise is the first two characters, with the character for name at the end. Memorize that last character if you hope to learn Japanese. You’ll see 名前 (na-mae) everywhere for “name.”

Back to the topic of characters used in shikona. This is a list of the Ten most frequently used characters, counting by the number of rikishi. Koto, for example, is used by Kotoshogiku (aka Kotokikutsuki) twice but I only count him as 1 distinct rikishi. One little side note is that characters used in Shikona include a few hiragana and katakana, not just kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are kind of inescapable and are crucial to anyone learning Japanese.

Character# of Uses# of Rikishi

The good news is, there’s only 223 or so kanji that are used in 25 or more shikona since the 1950s. The bad news is, there are 1028 characters used 24 times or fewer. This includes the 隠 (O) from 隠岐の海 (Okinoumi).

Yama, the character for “mountain,” is a wildly popular character not just because of all of the Asanoyama’s and Tochiozan’s, but also many Japanese surnames like Yamaguchi and Yamada — the latter which combines our Top 2. Yamadayama goes even further by surrounding the rice field with two mountains. Yamamotoyama, who even made an appearance in John Wick 2, bookends a book with two mountains.

Andy made another data viz? Oh, crap. There’s another 15 min down the tubes.

But mountain it’s not the most popular for rikishi from all prefectures. It’s in 3rd place after 土 and 佐 for rikishi from Kochi and fifth place after 安, 芸, and two versions of the possessive “no” (ノ and 乃) while the hiragana “no” is just after yama. This is because of the historical domain of Tosa (土佐) in Kochi and many location names within Hiroshima, including Aki (安芸). If you click on Shizuoka prefecture, the characters for Fuji (富士) bubble up to the top.

There’s another interesting, but predictable, aspect to kanji pairs like Tosa, Aki, Fuji, and Chiyo (千代). Shikona which use those characters are longer, on average, so the bars are orange to red while greener colored characters are used in shorter shikona (on average).

It’s also just interesting to see where wrestlers are coming from. Along with Tokyo, Osaka, Aichi, and Fukuoka (sites of the big tournaments) many wrestlers come from Hokkaido, including several yokozuna like Taiho, Chiyonofuji, Hokutoumi, Kitanoumi. Neighboring Aomori, home of Wakanohana I & II is also up there, along with Hyogo (next to Osaka and Kyoto), and Kagoshima have been hotbeds of sumo talent and the geography offers clues to the origins of many of their shikona.

In the past, I’ve had articles which tried to help decipher Japanese headlines, short articles, and tweets to try to help readers (and me) gather just a bit more information about sumo. Let’s face it, Shikona and sumo jargon (and medical/injury terms) are where Google Translate breaks down into word salad. If you can pick out the shikona and place names from headlines and articles, we can start diving deeper into the articles and tweets. This visualization and some of the others I’m working on will try to break down the hard part and help sumo fans focus on Sumo Japanese.

Sumo Stables For Beginners

If you’re like me, the sumo stables (heya) are a rather daunting mystery. There are so many of them that even after all of these years, beyond a few famous ones, I still can’t tell my Futagoyama from my Nishikido. After all, there are 45 active stables and there have been significant changes in the past couple of years. There are also many former and a few active wrestlers, ready to spread their wings and set up their own new stables.

There are great resources online to help out. First, the Sumo Kyokai’s website has the Sumo Beya Guide with a list of the wrestlers and staff. In a pinch, it’s a great, current roster. Then, of course, the SumoDB has a ton of information on the stables of each wrestler and does a great job tracking the history of changes; wrestlers do move from one heya to another — usually because a stable closes and its wrestlers are absorbed by a second stable, or a new stable opens and rikishi follow their recruiter to his new home.

Excellent Heya Roster and Sumo Reference

Hat-tip to Bruce for this excellent reference book. It has a complete roster with mugshots of all the wrestlers at the time of printing, grouped with their heya. It also has the staff, including coaches, hair dressers, gyoji, and support staff…my go-to reference, especially when watching those lower division matches because it includes the all-important furigana to help me penetrate some of the more bewildering shikona.

To add to these resources, I put together a little dashboard that I hope you will find as helpful as I do. This helps me get even more of a sense of not only which wrestlers are in which stable but also where the stables draw their wrestlers from. I can also drill into the kimarite (or winning techniques) the rikishi prefer, as well as what they fall victim to.

Feel free to click around. You can select a heya from the radio buttons on the right on either tab and the banzuke will filter to only those wrestlers from your selected heya. On the first tab, you can also click on a shusshin to have the banzuke filter to the wrestlers from that shusshin and on the second tab, click on the individual wrestler’s name to filter the kimarite chart. The kimarite includes each wrestlers’ career record — not just Osaka.

Oitekaze: A Southern Stable

As an example, let’s take a look at Oitekaze-beya, home of Endo, Daieisho, and just about everyone else named Dai~~ and Tsurugisho. Curiously, Oitekaze oyakata seems to recruit exclusively from the southern half of Japan. Tatsunami-beya, on the other hand, picks guys from the far north, the far south, and around Kanto…skipping over much in between.


On the second tab, you can see how well each wrestler did in Osaka in the top graph. In the bottom chart, you can discern his strengths and weaknesses. For Endo, we’ve got a clear preference for yotsu techniques while Daieisho prefers an oshi-battle, win or lose. You can get a sense that he will force the issue and not allow anyone near his belt while Endo is not quite as able to assert his preference.

I’m eager to hear what you discover about your favorite stables…or if it helps you find a stable to investigate further. I’ll update this with the current banzuke as we get closer to Nagoya Tokyo.