Now the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament is on at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. Sumo is a kind of wrestling and Japanese national sport. In these modern days, sumo is regarded as a sport, but it used to be a Shinto ritual. That is why, there are many Shinto rites in sumo wrestling still now. A ceremony called “dohyo-matsuri” was held last Saturday, and I went to see it with two of my friends.
Dohyo-matsuri is held on the day before the start of the tournament to purify the ring called dohyo and pray for safety of the event. It is opened to the public for free, but many people do not even know of its existence. It is probably because it is not given publicity in a positive manner. It is still a Shinto ritual and they want to hold it in a quiet and respectful manner. So, the entrance door of the gymnasium was closed by 9:50 a.m. to start the ceremony at 10:00.
High-ranking sumo wrestlers and authorized people were seated around the dohyo ring. Three sumo referees called gyoji, in white Shinto priest costumes performed the ceremony. They purified the participants and the place with some holy plants called sakaki, paper streamers named shide, and sake. Then the main referee recited a Shinto prayer.
There was a small hole in the center of the ring. The referees put offerings – some rice, salt, kelp seaweed, dried squid, nuts called kaya, and chestnuts into the hole. And then they poured sake over them. Two drum corps appeared and walked around the ring three times, striking the drum. Then, the hole in the ring was sealed…
While I was watching the ceremony, I realized anew that sumo is not only a sport but also still a Shinto ritual. That is why women cannot enter the dohyo ring today in the 21st century, either… Oh, I am not going to be a sumo wrestler, mind you!