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Sumo Wrestling

Item # 39409 - Bow Dance - Sumo - Sold for $160 - 11/30/2008
"Yumitori no zu" Sumo wrestler is performing "Yumi tori shiki" (bow dance or bow twirling ritual) after the sumo tournament of the day was finished.

The artelino archive offers a database of more than 50,000 sold Japanese prints with detailed descriptions, large images and results. artelino clients with an active purchase history and authorized consignors of artelino have full access to our archive. Read the archive guide and test a trial version.
By Kuniaki II Utagawa 1835-1888

Japanese Sumo Wrestling is one of the oldest martial arts in Japan. Sumo wrestlers were a favorite subject on Japanese woodblock prints. In contrast to some of the traditional Japanese art forms like kabuki, which has a heavy stand in today's world, sumo wrestling is enjoying a rising popularity - comparable to basketball in North America or soccer in Europe.

History of Japanese Sumo Wrestling

Sumo has its roots in the shinto religion. The matches were dedicated to the gods in prayers for a good harvest. The oldest written records date back to the 8th century. But it is probably more than 1500 years old.

Sumo prints from the 18th and 19th century prove the popularity of the sport in the past. During the last two decades the art of sumo wrestling could establish itself even outside of Japan. Akebono, an American born in Hawaii, became the first American champion to reach the highest rank.

The Rules of the Game

A sumo wrestling match is accompanied by a lot of traditional ceremony. The marching-in of the wrestlers is a sequence of formal rituals. The wrestlers are accompanied by two assistants - one walking in front and one behind him - the one behind is usually hard to spot.

The referee is clad in a luxurious kimono and wears a strange hat. After performing a series of opening rituals, the contest begins.

The wrestling match is all about pushing or throwing the opponent out of the doyo - the ring - or to bring the other guy down on the floor.

Sumo does not know any weight categories. There are a few basic techniques - from pulling the opponents legs to grabbing his belt and trying to throw or carry the opponent out of the ring.

Sumo Glossary

Here are some basic Japanese terms.

Sumo in Ukiyo-e (Japanese Prints)

Among the Japanese woodblock print artists are few that made no prints with subjects of sumo wrestlers. Ukiyo-e was a commercial art and was meant to sell. In the 18th and 19th century it was more the publisher who decided about the subjects than the artist. He gave the commissions, risked his money and therefore tended to publish popular themes.

A few artists should be mentioned for frequent or outstanding (Junichiro Sekino) sumo prints.

From the artelino Archive

Enjoy a few random examples of related art works sold in past auctions of artelino. Our archive offers a database of more than 50,000 sold Japanese prints and about 2,000 contemporary Chinese art prints with detailed descriptions, large images and results in USD. artelino clients with an active purchase history and authorized consignors have full access. Read the ARCHIVE GUIDE and test a trial version.

Item # 73524 - 100 View of Mt.Fuji - Fugaku Hyakkei - Vol. 3 Sumo - Sold for $120 - 12/31/2017
A book page from "Fugaku Hyakkei" (100 Views of Mt.Fuji). This black and white book series is one of the masterpieces of Hokusai. The amazing fact was that he started this large series at the ripe age of 75.
Vol. 3. Two sumo wrestlers are fighting at the foot of Mt. Fuji.
By Hokusai Katsushika 1760-1849
Item # 72588 - Sumo Fight and Dogs - Kuchi-e - Sold for $120 - 10/8/2017
Fighting sumo wrestlers. Two dogs (wolves?) and a bunch of flower are depicted on the background. A frontispiece illustration for the novel, "Hinodejima".
By Toshihide Migita 1863-1925
Item # 70924 - Frog Sumo Wrestlers - Sold for $900 - 3/19/2017
Two frogs grapple against each other in a sumo wrestling. One is holding a leaf acting as a referee, while the others watch the fight.
By Koson Ohara 1877-1945
Item # 70290 - Sumo Wrestling Match - Tanikaze vs. Onogawa - Sold for $320 - 2/26/2017
The famous sumo wrestling match between the grand champions Tanikaze Kajinosuke (left) and Onogawa Kisaburo. In this match in 1782, Onogawa succeeded to stop Tanikaze's 63 consecutive wins.
By Shunsho Katsukawa 1726-1792
Item # 69550 - Japanese and Chinese comparisons for the chapters of Genji - Hatsune - Sumo Wrestling - Sold for $320 - 12/11/2016
"Wakan Nazorae Genji" (Japanese and Chinese comparisons for the chapters of Genji). "Hatsune". Sumo wrestling match. Keyamura Rokusuke.
By Kuniyoshi Utagawa 1797-1861
Item # 69486 - Kabuki - Fire Fighters vs. Sumo Wrestlers - Sold for $300 - 8/28/2016
A Kabuki scene where the tattooed fire fighters are fighting against a sumo wrestler in the play, "Tsutsuko? no megumi wakou no torikumi".
Firemen were reputed as "they are more dangerous than the fire they are trying to extinguish" and often caused fighting and property destructions. There was a famous incident in which a group of firemen provoked a brawl against the wrestlers of a sumo school in Edo.
By Kunichika Toyohara 1835-1900
Item # 69027 - Sumo Wrestler Chokichi - Kabuki - Sold for $120 - 1/8/2017
Kabuki actor Seki Sanjuro II in the role of sumo wrestler Hanaregoma Chokichi. The title cartouche is the shape of fan used for sumo matches. Chokichi's nickname, "hanaregoma", means "runaway horse", thus he is wearing Kimono with pattern of horses. The print was published for the play, "Futatsu Chocho Kuruwa no Nikki" performed at Kado theater in July, 1827.
This print was illustrated in the authoritative reference book, "Osaka Kagami" by Jan van Doesburg.
By Yoshikuni Toyokawa active 1803-1840
Item # 68658 - Five Giant Sumo Wrestlers - Sumo - Sold for $240 - 2/19/2017
"Ryogoku Go-nin Oh-otoko" (Five Giants in Ryogoku). Sumo wrestlers have been famous for being big. However, these five guys were not just "big" but "enormous" !
(from upper left to clockwise) Mitoizumi 192cm 157kg; Ohnokuni 189cm 181kg; Asashio 183cm 186kg; Konishiki 187cm 225kg, he was the heaviest sumo wresler in the official record; Haguroyama 199cm 149kg.
After some 80 years of absence, the Japan Sumo Association commissioned the making of traditional nishiki-e style woodblock printing to publisher Kyoto Hanga-in, artist Daimon, carver Kishima and printer Ito in 1985. These new Sumo Nishiki-e are sold in Ryogoku Kokugi-kan in Tokyo.
By Daimon Kinoshita born 1946

Dieter WanczuraAuthor: Dieter Wanczura