JSA Looking to Spread Sumo for 2020
The Japan Sumo Association is looking to spread awareness of the sport and looking to make it more accessible to the public ahead of Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympic Games.
In coordination with an initiative from the Japanese government, the association is taking action to make the sport easier to access for the disabled and those coming from other countries. A recent event at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo venue featured explanations of all the aspects involved in sumo — from the wrestlers, to the rituals to the rules. The event, which brought out 2,300 foreign and disabled guests, was part of a research project by the government to help develop policy for promoting Japanese culture in anticipation of the Olympics.
"We want to let people around the world know about Japan’s culture and see how we cherish history and tradition," said Harumafuji, a sumo grand champion.
Many rules and rituals were explained in English, and trivia and details on wrestlers and bouts were explained, something not usually offered to native spectators of the sport. Wrestlers competed in exhibition bouts, performing the dohyo-iri ring entering ceremony, hairdressers There are plans to interpret these details in other languages in the near future.
In terms of helping the disabled understand what was unfolding, brochures in Braille were handed out, and sign language interpreters and monitors with subtitles were placed. Those who have lost their vision were able to understand what was going on through interpreters. For instance, an interpreter tapped the audience member to signify a wrestler won by throwing down his opponent.
Harumafuji and another grand champion, Kakuryu, performed a rarely seen sandan-gamae three-level ceremonial pose — which represents spirit, attack and defense. It was the first time in 21 years that the pose, which is only seen with special occasions, was performed.
"With the attention turned to Japan because of the Tokyo Olympics, we want people to watch sumo, and by all means, we want to do our utmost in this effort," Kakuryu said.