Grand Sumo Returns: The Best Sport You’re Not Watching

Grand Sumo returns to TVs from Sunday the 14th January. If you’re not already acquainted with the sport, here’s what you need to kanow.

Be prepared for a lot of Japanese words.

The Rules

dohyo9.jpgRules are simple, each wrestler (Rikishi) must force his opponent outside the ring (Dohyo), or touch the ground with anything other than the soles of his feet. That’s it.

There are a few other rules, such as no punching, and ABSOLUTELY no touching of the top-knot. But to start with, that’s all you need to know.

The Players

In Sumo there are 10 ranks of wrestlers, or Rikishi. Grand Sumo covers only those in the top 5 ranks (called Makuuchi), of which there are only 42 Rikishi.

Hakuho806.jpgThe top rank of Sumo is known as Yokozuna, of which there are only 4. For a Rikishi to qualify as a Yokozuna, they must win two tournaments consecutively and embody Japanese values*.

Notable Rikishi (wrestlers) are:

  • Hakuho (shown right), a current Yokozuna and the wrestler with the most wins in Sumo history. Kind of a big deal.
  • Goeido, a high-ranking wrestler with good chances of becoming a future Yokozuna.
  • Onosho & Endo, up and coming Rikishi.

*NOTE: There is a controversy in the Sumo world at the moment, as Harumafuji (A Yokozuna) has been found to have had a bar fight with another Rikishi (wrestler), and hit him over the head with a beer bottle. The question still hasn’t been answered whether he will lose his Yokozuna status, as he has not shown the moral character required of a Yokozuna.

The Tournament


This tournament (Basho) will take place in Tokyo, and is the first of the 4 Grand Sumo tournaments held every year. The tournament lasts for 15 days, during which each Rikishi (wrestler) will compete 15 times. The aim of every Rikishi is to obtain a kachi-koshi, or more wins than losses.

The winner of the tournament is the Rikishi with the most wins. If there is a draw (which does happen), then the drawing Rikishi face sudden death to decide the winner. The winner is awarded with the Emperor’s cup (shown left), as well as a whole host of other prizes including a whole cow (butchered), and a years supply of petrol.

Great, so how do I watch it?

Highlights will be shown on NHK World  during 14th-28th January, at 4:30 / 8:30 / 16:30 / 22:30 (UTC). Watch, on your TV, or view it online on NHK here. There’s no need to record, highlights will be stored online, and the tournament preview is already available to watch now.

Alternatively, Grand Sumo highlights will be available to watch the the NHK World App:

Download the App on iOS.

Download the App on Android.

If you’re interested in finding out more about sumo, and the traditions that surround it, check out Sumopedia, which airs after the Grand Sumo highlights.