The 8 Most Popular Sports in Japan (part 3)

5. Sumo

Sumo is commonly considered the national sport of Japan, and has been around since antiquity. Professional sumo tournaments began in 1684 in Tokyo’s Tomioka Hachiman-gu Shrine, originally arising from a Shinto ritual of a human wrestling with a god.

In this sport, there are two accepted ways to claim victory: to contact with the ground with any other part of your body except for your feet or to force your opponent out of the ring. Certainly, there are other grounds for disqualification, including when the belt, or mawashi of a wrestler comes off.

There are six sumo tournaments in the whole country every year. Each tournament spans 15 days. The wrestlers who are lower-ranked have matches at the beginning of the day, and the stands will fill up slowly when the higher-ranked ones make their way to the ring, or dohyo. The top two wrestlers (the highest and second-highest rankings for sumo wrestlers) will compete last to close the tournament.

6. Tennis

Tennis is believed to have first arrived in Japan in 1878, when 5 courts were constructed for use in Yamate Park of Yokohama by foreigners. In this year, George A. Leland was invited to introduce Wetern-style physical education to Japan, and it’s believed that his input caused tennis to become widely taught across the nation. However, due to the expense of procuring materials for standard tennis balls, “soft tennis” was developed, using a flexible, all-rubber ball. Then by 1886, soft tennis was the standard form played in Japan, and it is still taught in public schools in the country to this day.

Tennis has got a prominent place in Japanese culture. It was in tennis that Japan won its first Olympic medals by Ichiya Kumagai at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. Emperor Akihito of Japan met Empress Michiko on a tennis court in Karuizawa’s resort town in 1957. Moreover, Japanese manga series The Prince of Tennis has sold more than 50 million copies.

This entry was posted in Japanese sports and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.