Amami Sumo
Amami Sumo

Amami Sumo

I lived on Amami Oshima for three years learning Ryukyu Kobudo and Uechi ryu from Minowa sensei and Yoshimura sensei. While I lived there I did have the chance to see many Sumo matches, so this article on the history of Sumo from the Amami Municipal Museum was particularly interesting. I hope you enjoy it.

Kagoshima Prefecture is a region where Sumo wrestling is very popular. According to the Japan Sumo Association’s website, there are 31 wrestlers from Kagoshima Prefecture training in the world of Sumo. Fifteen of them are from the Amami Islands. In contrast, only four wrestlers are from Okinawa Prefecture. Okinawa Prefecture is also a region where sumo is also very active, but why do so few wrestlers enter the world of sumo?

In Sumo, the pre-war yokozuna Nishinoumi Kajiro was from Kagoshima, rebuilt the Izutsu stable and produced popular wrestlers from Kagoshima, such as Kirishima, Terao and Sankahoko. After the war, Asashio Taro of the Takasago stable was also active in the Tokunoshima Inokawa stable. Currently, Kosaku Satoyama of the Onoezoku stable is the fourth juryo rikishi, with a record of 11 wins and 4 losses in the March tournament and 9 wins and six losses in the May tournament (as of June 2015).

Such strong personal ties to the world of Sumo may be one of the reasons why there are so many wrestlers from Kagoshima Prefecture. It may also have something to do with the fact that the type of Sumo that is popular in Okinawa Prefecture is kumi-zumo Sumo (grappling sumo), which has different rules from grand Sumo, which is tachi-ai Sumo (standing style of Sumo).

The history of Sumo on Amami Oshima Island also shows that kumi-zumo was practiced in the same way as in Okinawa. Then, after the war, Sumo in the Amami Islands underwent major changes following the reversion to mainland Japan. There are approximately 120 sumo dohyo on Amami Oshima. So, it probably is “the island in Japan of with the most dohyo”.

The Amami City, Amami Museum is engaged in the collection and permanent exhibition of such Sumo related materials. The museum traces the exploits of legendary Amami Sumo wrestlers and explains the history of Sumo on Amami Oshima in an easy-to-understand way. The following is an introduction to the explanatory material for its Sumo exhibition.

“Islander Sumo” as depicted in Nanto Zatsuwa (Tales of the Southern Islands). In 1850, Nagoya Sagenta was exiled to Koshiku Village (now part of Naze) and while there, he wrote Nanto Zatsuwa.
Sumo wrestling (Yamato style) depicted in ‘Ryukyu Tsuta Shinkei’, probably painted between 1800 and 1845. Collection of the Nago Museum.

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