Yokozuna, Grand Champion, is the highest rank of wrestler. Power, skill and class (hinkaku) are required for elevation to the rank. If there is no wrestler competent to be a Yokozuna, the position is left vacant. There isno demotion from Yokozuna. Once a wrestler becomes a Yokozuna he will never return to the lower ranks.
A new Yokozuna is promoted through the following process: when there is a wrestler among the Ozeki (Champion) who has had outstanding scores for a certain period of time, the Japan Sumo Association seeks advice from the Yokozuna Selection Committee and the board of the association decides whether the wrestler will be officially recommended for promotion to Yokozuna. In the recommendation ceremony (Yokozuna Suikyo Shiki) the wrestler is given an Official Letter of Recommendation by the chairman of the board of the Association, after which the wrestler demonstrates the Dohyo Iri (Ring Entering Ritual) in front of the shrine's central building.

The Dohyo Iri (Ring Entering Ritual)

There are two ways of performing the Dohyo Iri. One is the Unryu style and the other is the Shiranui style. Toward the end of the Edo period, the tenth Yokozuna, Unryu and the eleventh Yokozuna, Shiranui, performed beautiful Dohyo Iri. Since then both styles have been practiced by Yokozuna.

The Shiranui Style

The Shiranui style originated with the eleventh Yokozuna, Shiranui. With this style the wrestler opens both arms wide, stretches them slightly upward, and gradually raises his body from crouching to standing position.
This style represents offense.

The Unryu Style

The tenth Yokozuna, Unryu, originated this style. After a shiko (big stomping), the Yokozuna flexes his left elbow, puts his left hand on the left side of his body and stretches the right arm out to his side.
The wrestler's left hand represents defense and the right offense.

The Four Colored Tassels

Four tassels decorating the roof of the Dohyo (the ring) represent the four seasons and the four gods of heaven who are believed to be guardians of the Dohyo.
The blue tassel in the East represents spring and the Seiryu (Blue Dragon) god, the red in the south, the Suzaku (Vermilion Peacock) god and summer,the white one in the west, autumn and the Byakko (White Tiger) god, and the
black tassel in the north represents winter and the Genbu (Black Turtle) god.

The Dohyo

From the Edo to the early Showa period, the Dohyo was 13 feet (3.94 meters) in diameter. This length, determined by two people stretching their arms sideways, was thought most appropriate. However, since a tournament held in
the presence of the Emperor on April 29, 1931 the ring's diameter has been 4.55 meters.

Janome no Suna (Umbrella-shaped Sand)

Sand is spread along the rim of the Dohyo to a width of 0.25 meters. This is called Janome no suna. It is what is left of the double ring which was to used up until 1931 and named after the design of a traditional umbrella called janome (snake eye).

The Mizuiri

Sometimes the wrestlers in a match grab each other's belts and become locked in a fixed position. If the match seems to be prolonged and the wrestlers seem to be very tired, the referee, following the advice of a group of judges, will stop the bout for a break. This short interval is called Mizuiri because each wrestler receives some water and the bout is then resumed.

Tegatana o Kiru (cutting by hand-sword)

When the winning wrestler receives his reward from the Gyoji (ring referee) at the edge of the Dohyo, he makes a small chopping gesture with his right hand. It's origin can be traced back to the Edo period. In those days, in the last three bouts of the last day of a tournament, the winning Ozeki (second rank wrestler), Sekiwake, (third rank wrestler) and Komusubi (fourth rank wrestler) would respectively receive a bow, a piece of bow string and an arrow as a reward. Now, instead of an Ozeki, the wrestler who does Yumitori shiki (the bow awarding ceremony) receives a bow and is supposed to make the gesture.


Tate-Gyoji means the chief referee. Today there are two Tate-Gyoji, one is Kimura Shonosuke and the other Shikimori Inosuke. Forty-five is the designated number of Gyoji and all are assigned either to Kimura or to Shikimori.


The origin of Gumbai is a rod with a strip-like fan attached to it which was used by warlords in the medieval period when they led their soldiers.


Sumo-ji is a writing style used to write the table of wrestler rankings. This style was established through the late Edo and Meiji periods by the designer Mikawaya Negishi Jiuemon and therefore is called Negishi-ryu.


When Sumo first became popular entertainment most of the wrestlers were retired warriors. They were very proud and did not wrestle under their real names. A wrestler gave himself another strong, masculine name, and these names were called Shikona.

Tamariseki and Masuseki

Tamariseki, the seats just beside the ring also have another name, Sunakaburi (sand splash). When the bout is very close and vigorous, spectators in these seats are sometimes splashed by sand from the ring.
Just behind the judges, people can follow the bouts very closely from these seats, however drinking, eating and smoking are all strictly prohibited.
Masuseki is a framed seating area with enough cushions for four people.
Drinking and eating are permitted in these seats, and people can appreciate the special atmosphere of a Grand Sumo tournament. The rest of the seats are either chairs or benches.