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!