Sumo

SumoAntiquity (pre-1185)Japanese Middle Ages (1185–1603)Edo period (1603–1867)Since 1868Prehistoric wall paintings indicate that sumo originated from an agricultural ritual dance performed in prayer for a good harvest.[5] The first mention of sumo can be found in a Kojiki manuscript dating back to 712, which describes how possession of the Japanese islands was decided in a wrestling match between the kami known as Takemikazuchi and Takeminakata.Takemikazuchi was a god of thunder, swordsmanship, and conquest, created from the blood that was shed when Izanagi slew the fire-demon Kagu-tsuchi. Takeminakata was a god of water, wind, agriculture and hunting, and a distant descendant of the storm-god Susanoo. When Takemikazuchi sought to conquer the land of Izumo, Takeminakata challenged him in hand-to-hand combat. In their melee, Takemikazuchi grappled Takeminakata's arm and crushed it "like a reed," defeating Takeminakata and claiming Izumo.The Nihon Shoki, published in 720, dates the first sumo match between mortals to the year 23 BC, when a man named Nomi no Sukune fought against Taima no Kuehaya at the request of Emperor Suinin and eventually killed him, making him the mythological ancestor of sumo.According to the Nihon Shoki, Nomi broke a rib of Taima with one kick, and killed him with a kick to the back as well.Until the Japanese Middle Ages, this unregulated form of wrestling was often fought to the death of one of the fighters.The first historically-attested sumo fights were held in 642 at the court of Empress Kōgyoku to entertain a Korean legation. In the centuries that followed, the popularity of sumo within the court increased its ceremonial and religious significance. Regular events at the Emperor's court, the sumai no sechie, and the establishment of the first set of rules for sumo fall into the cultural heyday of the Heian period.With the collapse of the Emperor's central authority, sumo lost its importance in the court; during the Kamakura period, sumo was repurposed from a ceremonial struggle to a form of military combat training among samurai.By the Muromachi period, sumo had fully left the seclusion of the court and became a popular event for the masses, and among the daimyō it became common to sponsor wrestlers. Sumotori who successfully fought for a daimyō's favor were given generous support and samurai status. Oda Nobunaga, a particularly avid fan of the sport, held a tournament of 1,500 wrestlers in February 1578.ecause several bouts were to be held simultaneously within Oda Nobunaga's castle, circular arenas were delimited to hasten the proceedings and to maintain the safety of the spectators. This event marks the invention of the dohyō, which would be developed into its current form up until the 18th century.The winner of Nobunaga's tournament was given a bow for being victorious and he began dancing to show the war-lord his gratitude.Because sumo had become a nuisance due to wild fighting on the streets, particularly in Edo, sumo was temporarily banned in the city during the Edo period. In 1684, sumo was permitted to be held for charity events on the property of Shinto shrines, as was common in Kyoto and Osaka.The first sanctioned tournament took place in the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine at this time. An official sumo organization was developed, consisting of professional wrestlers at the disposal of the Edo administration. Many elements date from this period, such as the dohyō-iri, the heya system, the gyōji and the mawashi. The 18th century brought forth several notable wrestlers such as Raiden Tameemon, Onogawa Kisaburō and Tanikaze Kajinosuke, the first historical yokozuna.The Meiji Restoration of 1868 brought about the end of the feudal system, and with it the wealthy daimyō as sponsors. Due to a new fixation on Western culture, sumo had come to be seen as an embarrassing and backward relic, and internal disputes split the central association. The popularity of sumo was restored when Emperor Meiji organized a tournament in 1884; his example would make sumo a national symbol and contribute to nationalist sentiment following military successes against Korea and China. The Japan Sumo Association reunited on 28 December 1925 and increased the number of annual tournaments from two to four, and then to six in 1958. The length of tournaments was extended from ten to fifteen days in 1949.
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