Sumô Wrestler Prints


Sumô (相撲) is a Japanese style of wrestling and Japan’s national sport.  It originated in ancient times as a performance to entertain the Shinto gods.  Many rituals with religious background are still followed today.  The basic rules of sumô are simple: The wrestler who first touches the floor with something else than the soles of his feet or leaves the ring, loses.  The bouts usually last only a few seconds and in rare cases up to one minute or longer.  I am grateful to Yasu Takano for identifying many of the wrestlers.


Wrestler: Ôzora Buzaemon (大武左衛門) pulling up a bamboo tree

Date: 1827

Publisher: Yamaguchiya Tobei


NOTE: Ôzora Buzaemon had an unusually short sumô career.  He appeared only in the 1827 spring season, losing all seven matches, and retired immediately.


Wrestler: Mutsugamine Iwanosuke (六ツヶ峰岩之助)

Date: 4th month of 1853

Publisher: Yamaguchi-ya Tôbei


Wrestler: Inagawa Masanosuke (猪名川 政之助)

Date: 1845-1846

Publisher: Maru-ya Seijirô


Wrestler: Koyanagi Tsunekichi (小柳常吉)

Date: c. 1845-1846

Publisher: Maru-ya Seijirô


Wrestler: Shiranui Dakuemon (不知火諾エ門)

Date: c. 1845-1846

Publisher: Maru-ya Seijirô




Wrestler: Nioarashi Isogoro (鳰嵐磯五郎) in professional attire (Marugame genkai aratame Nioarashi Isogoro)

Date: 1845

Publisher: Nishimura Yohachi


Wrestler: Oniwaka Rikinosuke (鬼若 力之助)

Date: c. 1850-1852

Publisher: Maru-ya Seijirô


NOTE: Oniwaka Rikinosuke was an extremely large child who participated in the ring entering ceremony (dohyo-iri) in the early 1850s.


Wrestler: Oniwaka Rikinosuke (鬼若 力之助)

Date: c. 1850-1852

Publisher: Musashi-ya Isaburô



Wrestler: Oniwaka Rikinosuke (鬼若 力之助) in sumô attire

Date: c. 1850-1852

Publisher: Owari-ya Seishichi



Wrestler: Oniwaka Rikinosuke (鬼若 力之助) in street attire

Date: c. 1850-1852

Publisher: Enami

Wrestler: Oniwaka Rikinosuke (鬼若 力之助) at age eight with his giant hand print

Date: c. 1850-1852

Publisher: Matsu-ya

Wrestlers: Actors Ichikawa Hazaemon as the sumô wrestler Hanaregoma Chôkichiin (放駒の長吉, left) and Nakamura Utaemon IV as the wrestler Nuregami Chôgorô (濡髪長五郎, right) in the kabuki play Futatsu Chôchô kuruwa nikki

Date: 8th month of 1841

Publisher: Edo-ya Matsugorô


Wrestler:  Nioarashi Isogorô (?磯五郎) in street attire (Marugame Genkai aratame Nioarashi Isogorô)

Date: c. 1830

Publisher: Nishimura Yohachi



Actors: Actor Ichimura Uzaemon XII as sumô wrestler Akitsushima Kuniemon (秋津嶋, left) and actor Arashi Kichisaburô III as sumô wrestler Onigadake Horaemon (鬼ヶ嶽, right) in the kabuki play Sekitori Nidai no Shobuzuke

Date: 9th month of 1850

Theater: Ichimura

Publisher: Tanba-ya Hanjirô

Actors: Actor Arashi Rikan III as wrestler Hanaregoma no Chôkichi (放駒長吉, left) and actor Ichikawa Danjűrô VIII as wrestler Nuregami Chôgorô (濡髪長五郎, right)

Play: Futatsu chôchô kuruwa nikki (双蝶仝曲輪日記, Diary of Two Butterflies in the Pleasure Quarters)

Date: 2nd month of 1852

Theater: Kawarasaki

Publisher: under a single mountain is identified as Hori Takichi of Yushima in Kuniyoshi by B. W. Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961), but as Ôta-ya Takichi in Publishers of Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Compendium by Andreas Marks (Hotei Publishing, Leiden, 2011)


Title: Ikezuki Geitazaemon (生月 鯨太左ェ門), the big wrestler

Date: c. 1844 (censor Watanabe Shôemon)

Publisher: Hon-ya Genpachi


Note: Ikezuki Geitazaemon was not a skilled sumô wrestler, but was a giant who was brought to Edo about 1844 as a special attraction to conduct a ring entering ceremony (dohyo-iri). 


Wrestler: Ikezuki Geitazaemon (生月 鯨太左ェ門) in street attire

Date: 1844

Publisher: Sa (phonetic pronunciation of )


Wrestler: Ôzora Buzaemon (大武左衛門)

Date: 1827

Publisher: Yamaguchi-ya Tobei


NOTE: Ôzora Buzaemon had an unusually short sumô career.  He appeared only in the 1827 spring season, losing all seven matches, and retired immediately.


Description: The yearly wrestling meeting (Sumo Nenki), showing Raigen-dayu (?太夫), probably a veteran wrestler or an umpire, in a dark robe, seated with his hands in his lap.  The title cartouche is framed with symbols of longevity.

Date: 2nd month of 1858

Publisher: Yamaguchi-ya Tobei (山口屋藤兵衛)


Wrestlers: Kotôzan Bunemon (湖東山文右エ門, left) and Iwamigata Jôemon (岩見潟丈右エ門, right)

Judge: Musashigawa (武蔵川)

Date: 1842 winter season or the 1843 spring season

Publisher: Fujioka-ya Hikotarô

Wrestlers: Shiranui-emon (不知火右衛門, left) and Kagiyama Taniemon (劔山谷右衛門, right)

Judge: Shikimori Inosuke (式守伊之助, left) and Miyagino (宮城野, right)

Date: c. 1843

Publisher: Fujioka-ya Hikotarô

Title: Wresters entering the Fund-raising Sumo Matches (Kanjin ozumo dohyoiri no zu, 勧進大相撲土俵入之図)

Subject: The ring-entering ceremony from the 1850 spring season held on the Honjo Ekôin Temple grounds

Wrestlers: The wrestlers on the right are on the higashi (east side).  From the right, in descending order in ranking: Tsurugizan (ôzeki), Koyanagi (sekiwake), Goyôboku (komusubi), Iôzan, Arakuma, Tomozuna, Kumagatake, Kumosayama, Musashino, Masuizan (stepping into the ring), Kumoudake (already standing in the ring).  Exiting to the left are the wrestlers on the nishi (west side), also in a descending order in ranking from the right: Kagamiiwa (sekiwake, still in the ring), Arauma (komusubi, stepping out of the ring), Tsuneyama, Inagawa, Itsukushima, Kaigatake, Kuroiwa, Kimigatake, Ichiriki, Amatsukaze.  The ôzeki of the west side, Hidenoyama, is the large figure already off the ring, appearing behind the exiting wrestlers.

Date: 1850

Publisher: Tsujioka-ya Bunsuke

A later edition of the same triptych with different wrestlers’ names and generally harsher colors.  This triptych represents the 1865 winter season, also held at Honjo Ekôin.  The names on the right are for the east side and those on the left for the west side.  On the east side, they are from the right in a descending order in ranking: Kimenzan (ôzeki), Jinmaku (sekiwake), Chitosegawa (komusubi), Kajigahama, Arauma, Shiramayumi, Terugatake, Yanasedake, Minatogawa, Tsurugataki.  On the west side are, from the right to left also in a descending order in ranking: Shiranui (ôzeki), Onogawa (sekiwake), Washigahama (komusubi), Shushakayama, Chiganoura, Azumazeki, Ayanami, Musashigawa, Ryôgoku, Koshinoumi.

Title: 勧進大相撲興行之全図

Subject: Ceremonial entry of wrestlers at the great wrestling match to raise funds for pious causes

Wrestlers: The umpire seated in the centre is Kimura Shonosuke

Date: 1847-1853


Another state of the above design

Title: Akazawa-yama ô-sumô (赤沢山 大相撲)

Description: Matano Gorô Kagehisa (股野五郎景久) thrown by Kawazu Saburô Sukechika (河津三郎祐親) in their sumô wrestling match before Yoritomo umpired by Ebina Genpachi Hirotsuna (河津三郎祐安)

Publisher: Maru-ya Kyűshirô

Date: 4th month of 1858

Robinson: T353


NOTE: This bout took place on Akazawayama Mountain in 1176. 

 “Robinson” refers to listing in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-Prints by Basil William Robinson (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1982) and its privately published supplement.