Vocabulary

Learn New Words FAST with this Lesson’s Vocab Review List

Get this lesson’s key vocab, their translations and pronunciations. Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Safe & Secure. We respect your privacy
Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

INTRODUCTION
Peter:
Peter here. Japanese culture class. Today I am joined by Megumi San, Megumi how are you today?
Megumi:
Very good. Thank you, how are you?
Peter:
Very good because today we are talking about something really, really interesting.
Megumi:
Umm…
Peter:
Well actually we are not talking about it. Who is here with us today?
Megumi:
Today, we have Bob. Bob, why don’t you introduce yourself?
Bob:
Hello everybody, yeah my name is Bob. I am from America and I’ve been in Japan for 5 years and I am a little bit of an expert on something Japanese.
Peter:
Well, why don’t you tell us what that is?
Bob:
I am an expert. Well, I don’t know if I should call myself an expert but I love….
Peter:
You are an expert.
LESSON FOCUS
Bob:
I love sumo and that’s what – I would like to talk about sumo today. I think it’s something very interesting Japanese culture wise and it’s a great sport.
Megumi:
Now how did you get interested in it?
Bob:
That’s a good question actually. When I came to Japan, I had heard about sumo. I had seen a little bit before I came and while I just thought, is it really just two big men dancing in a round ring.
Megumi:
That’s a great way to put it.
Bob:
But it’s not. There is a lot more to it and since I was in Japan and I saw it on TV, I got really interested in it.
Peter:
Now I also saw it on TV many times but when I see it on TV, it is very, very hard to understand all the words and it’s all in Japanese and I tried desperately to get the English channel but it just wasn’t there.
Bob:
Yeah it’s a little bit daunting at first. There are sumos very structured as most things in Japan are, right but once you know the structure, it becomes a lot easier to understand.
Peter:
Okay so tell us about that structure. Where do you want to start?
Bob:
Where to start? That’s – I think the most important thing to start with is the classification of the wrestlers. There is many different divisions in sumo and the top division, that’s 幕内(まくうち) division and that’s where all the top wrestlers are. That’s where they can actually make money and those are the ones that everybody comes to see.
Peter:
Now if 幕内 is the top, what’s below that? How do you get to be a 幕内? I am not really familiar with this structure so help me out here.
Bob:
Sure, sure, sure. Below 幕内 is a 十両(じゅうりょう) division.
Peter:
Okay.
Megumi:
Ah the rookie?
Bob:
Exactly.
Peter:
Thank you Megumi san.
Bob:
That would be the sumo – yeah the minor leagues, the rookie…
Peter:
Okay.
Bob:
Of the sumo division and then there is four more divisions below that but nobody worries about those divisions.
Peter:
Now let me ask what – I know like sometimes in the minor leagues here, people have jobs and then on their part time more like. They kind of work while they play in the minor leagues. They have a – because you know, the money isn’t enough to allow them to do this full time. So is this kind of similar to what this ranking is or does it have to be with age or the college.
Bob:
Well, it’s really completely different and it has nothing to do with age, it has everything to do with your ability and if your ability when you become stronger and you win more, you move up in rank and if you don’t do well, you stay at a lower rank and your job is to take care of the ones in the higher rank.
Megumi:
What does that entail?
Bob:
That entails getting up at – at about 5 o’clock in the morning. Now you have to make breakfast for all the top division wrestlers.
Megumi:
Oh!
Peter:
That’s a lot of work.
Megumi:
That’s a lot of food.
Bob:
Yeah. If nobody has watched sumo before, these are big men.
Peter:
And what are they eating for breakfast?
Bob:
They eat a form of – it’s like a stew. It’s maybe you’ve heard of it.
Megumi:
I have. Okay and that’s ちゃんこ鍋
Bob:
That’s right and what’s in that – which is everything. Yeah a lot of vegetables and a lot of meat in the ちゃんこ鍋 and it’s just a stew and they eat as much of it as they can but only twice a day.
Megumi:
Oh I always imagined, they would be eating constantly.
Bob:
There is a lot of sleep involved.
Peter:
Ah!
Bob:
Because you eat that large meal and then you can rest.
Megumi:
Oh let me guess. So they eat and they fall asleep and all that food gets stored as – as what?
Bob:
Fat. Yeah, yeah. That’s how they get bigger and bigger but there is a lot of training too. It’s not only eating. They will train for hours on – on and just train and train and those lower level wrestlers we talked about, they are the ones that they do all the grunt work.
Peter:
Now is there one big community? They all come from one place, all the wrestlers or how is that divided up?
Bob:
Ah okay. Now each wrestler belongs to a house or we say a 部屋(へや) and each 部屋together they formed the Japan Sumo Association. So you have to be a member of a house and then those houses have different sumo wrestlers that face off against each other in the tournament.
Peter:
All right Bob. Here comes the million dollar question.
Bob:
Oh oh!
Peter:
About how many houses are there?
Bob:
Well!
Peter:
That’s a very good way to start off.
Bob:
The last time I checked, this is a rough figure. There is about 49 registered houses with about 700 wrestlers total.
Peter:
Wow a lot!
Bob:
Yeah it’s a lot of wrestlers.
Peter:
And can you just give us the big names, the brand names in the houses?
Bob:
The brand names and that would be from the top division we talked about earlier.
Peter:
Well each – well theoretically, each house could have a top wrestler right?
Megumi:
Well how does it exactly work, the system within each house?
Bob:
Well basically in each house, you have an old sumo wrestler who teaches the new sumo wrestlers, the 親方(おやかた). He is the teacher and of course, in each house, you want to have a wrestler in the top division but if they are not training well, if they are not performing well, they won’t make it to the top division and that house has nobody in the top division.
Peter:
So each house theoretically could have someone in that top division.
Bob:
Yes that’s right. Yeah if they train hard enough, if they do well enough, yeah they could – each house could have somebody in that top division but it’s important to remember, there is only 30 wrestlers in the very top division and there is 49 houses. So it’s a lot of competition for that top division.
Peter:
Really?
Megumi:
So tell me, who are some of the big name wrestlers within the top division.
Bob:
Now the big name 力士(りきし)?
Megumi:
Uhoo.
Peter:
Wait! Wait! Well first of all, tell everybody out there what a 力士 is.
Bob:
Well 力士 is a wrestler.
Peter:
A sumo wrestler.
Bob:
A sumo wrestler, yeah. Some of the big names – well, we will go big in order of height and the biggest name, the biggest height is a wrestler named 琴欧州(ことおうしゅう)
Megumi:
Uf!
Bob:
And I think somebody has got a little bit of a crush on 琴欧州. Am I right?
Megumi:
He is cute, I can’t deny that.
Bob:
He is cute yeah. He is cute, we have to admit it even as a guy.
Megumi:
Yes you are right. Isn’t he cute?
Bob:
Oh he is shy!
Megumi:
Yeah he is shy. Peter thinks he is very cute.
Peter:
Yeah I am just not sure which one he is.
Megumi:
Eyes.
Peter:
And they are all so cute. So I just need a…
Megumi:
But well, where is he from? Can you tell us that?
Bob:
Actually, Kotooshu, he is from Bulgaria.
Peter:
Ah!
Bob:
Oh yeah!
Megumi:
And you know which one?
Peter:
He is the good looking one.
Megumi:
Yes.
Bob:
But he is also the tallest wrestler in sumo.
Megumi:
How tall is he?
Peter:
Currently.
Bob:
Currently. He is over 7 feet.
Peter:
Really?
Bob:
Yes he is a bit tall. He is a little bit taller than me.
Peter:
But I think what’s interesting about him is his physique because he doesn’t have the typical sumo physique meaning he is very, very muscular.
Bob:
He is – he is very muscular and he doesn’t have much fat which was one of the concerns when he came up to sumo, they thought umm he is not big enough in the body to be a top rank sumo wrestler but he’s proved everybody wrong.
Megumi:
Umm.
Bob:
And let’s see some of the other big names. The grand champion, the top dog, the Yokozuna 朝青竜(あさしょうりゅう)
Peter:
Just give us the name slowly one more time.
Bob:
あさしょうりゅう
Peter:
Okay and tell us a little bit about him.
Bob:
Now he is the top dog, the big gun and he is Mongolian.
Megumi:
Oh!
Peter:
You know, I thought sumo was the Japanese sport. Where are all the Japanese 力士?
Bob:
That’s one of the big problems now. There are no – at the very, very top rank – the highest rank, there hasn’t been a Japanese wrestler for a long time.
Peter:
Really?
Bob:
Yeah. They have some – some big names in the Japanese ranks and one guy, it’s more not for his fighting style but his pregame warmup, 高見盛(たかみさかり).
Megumi:
And what does he do in this pregame warmup?
Peter:
Yeah.
Bob:
He hits himself on the chest and on the face and pumps his fists to get himself ready for the match.
Megumi:
Battle preparation.
Bob:
Yes. And Kyushu, the big southernmost island. The each tournament is of 15 days. That way, you can never have a tie record at the end of the tournament. You can only have a winning record or losing record. Now winning record
Megumi:
The 勝ち越し(かちこし)
Bob:
And a losing record.
Megumi:
負け越し(まけこし)
Bob:
Exactly. Now of course, everybody wants to have the winning record. So you fight very hard each match. Now we want to talk about the individual match..
Peter:
But before that…
Bob:
Sure.
Peter:
I think we should point out 15 days.
Bob:
Right.
Peter:
And each day, each wrestler wrestles one match.
Bob:
Exactly.
Peter:
And these matches can be over in a matter of seconds or sometimes if they are very exciting, they can go a few minutes.
Bob:
Exactly. And I know people are thinking a few minutes! That’s not long enough but once you see these men, you will understand why it’s only a few minutes.
Peter:
Yeah.
Megumi:
But what is the objective of sumo? How does one win?
Bob:
Okay. Well the objective is to either force your opponent out of the ring or make your opponent touch down on the ring.
Megumi:
With their hand?
Bob:
With the hand, body anything but the feet. So you have to stay upright in the ring and then you want to force your opponent out of the ring or throw him down on to the ring.
Peter:
And all matches must end with a winner?
Bob:
Exactly. And each match is held – the ring, it’s a circular ring and it’s made out of – made out of the ground. It’s made out of earth and it’s called a 土俵(どひょう) and there is a referee in the ring with you.
Peter:
And how is this referee dressed? Black &White in stripes.
Bob:
Definitely not. Yeah we can’t call him the zebra.
Peter:
Yeah.
Bob:
He is dressed in a very traditional – it’s like a Japanese kimono and it’s very traditional, very colorful and he shouts encouragements to the wrestlers. So if you watch a sumo match, there is a referee that’s 行司(ぎょうじ) is yelling at the wrestlers.
Peter:
What’s he saying?
Bob:
He is just encouraging them to fight harder, to fight harder, to fight harder.
Peter:
Really?
Bob:
Uhoo!
Megumi:
I thought he was just scolding them the whole time.
Bob:
That’s what many people think.
Peter:
Yeah.
Bob:
It seems like he is very angry but he is trying to make them wrestle with as much fighting spirit as they can muster.
Peter:
Now there is something special about this circular line. You want to tell us about that?
Bob:
Well I’d say it’s made of straw and it’s actually elevated. It’s sticking out of the ring but what’s special about it is that wrestlers, that’s a last line of defense from being pushed out of the ring. A lot of times they will use – they will put their foot on the edge of that straw and use that for leverage to push the other wrestler back and give them that second chance at a win.
Peter:
Yeah so it’s – it comes out probably a few inches right?
Bob:
Yeah it comes out a few inches but you will see it in almost every match that somebody will be pushed to the edge, put their foot on that straw and then keep themselves in the match that way. It’s very amazing.
Peter:
Okay so we have all these tournaments and 15 days each and where were we?
Bob:
Well we were talking about some of the big names and yeah, we talked about the foreign wrestlers, a couple of the Mr. pumping himself up, 高見盛 wrestler but there is the different divisions of wrestlers. We talked about a winning record and the losing record and the reason you want a winning record is to move up in rank. Now hopefully to become one of the higher champions but also it has to be pointed out, you make more money.
Peter:
And what is some good money? The sumo wrestlers do quite well for themselves?
Bob:
They do. We are talking about ¥2 million a month.
Peter:
About USD20,000
Bob:
Yeah for the top wrestler. For the #1 guy, 朝青竜 the Yokozuna, he makes that in a month.
Peter:
And that’s just base salary.
Bob:
Yeah.
Peter:
No sponsorships.
Bob:
No sponsorships.
Peter:
Which they do pretty well on too..
Bob:
Just their salary, exactly. And each match, the matches are also sponsored and the more sponsors for the match, the more extra money you are bringing home.
Megumi:
Who are some of the big sponsors?
Bob:
Well we mentioned 琴欧州 and he is from Bulgaria. While in Japan, we have Bulgaria Yogurt.
Megumi:
Ah!
Bob:
And that is one of his biggest sponsors.
Megumi:
Oh very fitting.
Bob:
Very fitting and actually a lot of people laugh when they see that sponsor go around for him. So it’s a very funny site to see actually but of course traditional Japanese things are – you know, kimono makers or Green tea companies. They all sponsor something because it’s such a traditional sport.
Peter:
Okay. We are running short on time here. So why don’t you tell us about the divisions.
Bob:
Sure.
Peter:
Start with the top.
Bob:
The top division 幕内 division and the ranking of the wrestlers. We have the top wrestlers that’s the Yokozuna who is #1
Peter:
And that’s a rank though right?
Bob:
That’s the rank. That’s the top rank. That’s what every wrestler wants to be.
Peter:
Okay.
Bob:
Below him is the 大関(おおぜき).
Peter:
Okay.
Bob:
Those are the ones that are closest to the 横綱(よこづな). Below him, the 関脇(せきわけ) and the 小結(こむすび) which are really close to 大関. They are really strong wrestlers but not quite there yet and then after that, we have a lot of wrestlers in the 前頭(まえがしら) and they are just pretty good, but not good enough wrestlers.
Peter:
Got it.
Bob:
Which 高見盛is a 前頭
Peter:
The one who has the big war dance but…
Bob:
The big war dance.
Peter:
He can’t really back it up.
Bob:
Exactly.
Megumi:
Ah!
Bob:
He is always 7 and 7 on the last day.
Megumi:
Oh!
Peter:
Bob, it was really great having you down and you know, I don’t really think we even scratched the surface.
Bob:
There is so much more to talk about with sumo. Really there is.
Megumi:
You have so much knowledge. I am very impressed.
Bob:
It’s scary, isn’t it?
Megumi:
Ah!
Peter:
I think we are going to have to have you back and get some more of that knowledge.
Bob:
Excellent.
OUTRO
Peter:
All right. So but for today, that’s going to do it.
Megumi:
All right.
Peter:
Now stop by japanesepod101.com. Inside today’s PDF, we will have a much more detailed write up of everything we threw at you today and we threw a lot.
Bob:
Yes we did.
Peter:
That’s going to do for today.
Megumi:
Bye.
Bob:
Bye bye.

Kanji

Review & Remember All Kanji from this Lesson

Get complete breakdowns, review with quizzes and download printable practice sheets! Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Safe & Secure. We respect your privacy
Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

13 Comments

Hide
Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

JapanesePod101.com
Saturday at 6:30 pm
Pinned Comment
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Mina-san, Thank you once again for your patience and understanding. We hope all of you had a great week with plenty of study time! 😉 Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!

December 11th, 2014 at 3:52 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Juan!

Thank you for your nice feedback! It makes us really happy to know that you enjoyed this lesson about sumo!

I must say though,
this is a very old lesson (2007), so the rankings might have changed a bit.

I hope you will enjoy watching sumo when you come here!
Engla
Team JapanesePod101.com

Juan
December 6th, 2014 at 10:56 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

I really enjoyed this lesson on Sumo. I have heard a lot about mixed martial arts, kickboxing, and Judo in Japan but not a lot about Sumo. I was not aware of all of the divisions, the sumo houses, and all of the day-to-day activities that goes on in a Sumo wrestlers life. I was also shocked to hear that there is not a Japanese champion in the highest ranks of Sumo. I want to thank you for adding this lesson to the Japanese Culture Class section. Now I have something else to look forward to seeing when I make a trip tp Japan.

Juanito
June 10th, 2008 at 12:39 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

I just went to my first sumo match yesterday!!!
one of the best experiences of my life !!

hooray!https://www.japanesepod101.com/wp-images/smilies/icon_biggrin.gif

March 10th, 2007 at 6:02 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Bob, great job with the podcast. I hope we have you back soon.

Bob
March 1st, 2007 at 12:11 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Troy. Good point there. That’s what happens when you leave an American like me to try and convert from the metric system. Cheers!

Troy
February 26th, 2007 at 11:25 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Your sumo expert is out to lunch on some of the stuff he says. Kotooshu isn’t even close to 7′.😒 Try like 6′6″.
http://sumo.goo.ne.jp/eng/ozumo_meikan/rikishi_joho/rikishi.php?A=2510

Sindy
February 25th, 2007 at 8:24 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Welcome back aboard JP101 Crew!😉

Your Welcome JP101 I got them (Listeners) enternaint for a week in Miki’s Blog!😆😉

I like Sumos and this was very interest Thank You! 😉 😀 S_R_C

February 25th, 2007 at 3:38 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

I have to go with a quote from Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan:

“Sumo is the most perfect of sports. It has elegance, ceremony, danger, art, speed, and, most important, two fat bastards smacking the **** out of each other. It is immaculate, which is why it has remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years. It remains the only thing in the world that I want to stay static. The only thing I love that loves me back.” (Transmetropolitan Oct 1999, No. 26 Pg 17 — censorship, mine)

February 25th, 2007 at 2:31 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

お帰りなさい!

yay, the lessons are back! perfect timing, as i’ve just gotten caught up on all the old lessons!😄 looking forward to hearing a new lesson!

thanks JPod101 for all the great work!!😄

アニタ

Carlo
February 24th, 2007 at 11:42 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Welcome back JP101 team, I was longing for your return!😉

カルロ😎