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A dohyo-iri ceremony

A dohyo-iri (土俵入り) is the ring-entering ceremony, performed only by the wrestlers in the juryo and makuuchi divisions. The east and west sides perform their dohyo-iri together, in succession; the yokozuna have their own individual dohyo-iri performed separately. The main styles of yokozuna dohyo-iri are Unryu and Shiranui, named after Unryu Kyukichi and Shiranui Koemon. A yokozuna performs the ceremony with two attendants, the tachimochi (太刀持ち, sword carrier) and the tsuyuharai (露払い, dew sweeper).

Makuuchi and Juryo Dohyo-iri[]

Wrestlers in the juryo and makuuchi division all perform the same version of the dohyo-iri (excluding yokozuna). Wrestlers in the east and west sides perform the dohyo-iri together in succession.

Process[]

The lowest ranked wrestler on the east or west side comes up to dohyo first. Every time a sumo wrestler goes on the dohyo, their shikona, birthplace and stable are announced. The last wrestler to go to the dohyo is always the ozeki. Once everyone is on, they first turn around and face inwards the dohyo. They then clap, raise their right hand, raise their kesho-mawashi, then stretch their arms vertically up. After this process they walk off the dohyo individually starting with the lowest ranked rikishi and ending with the highest ranked rikishi.

Yokozuna Dohyo-Iri[]

68th yokozuna Asashoryu's Unryu-style Yokozuna Dohyo-iri

The formal birth of the rank from Tanikaze's time appears to have in part come from a desire to let the very best have a separate ring entry ceremony (dohyo-iri) from the remaining top division wrestlers. The dohyo-iri is a ceremonial presentation of all the top division wrestlers which is held before the competitive bouts of the day. The normal ceremony for top division wrestlers is to be introduced and form a circle around the wrestling ring (dohyo) wearing specially decorated heavy silk "aprons", called kesho-mawashi. A brief symbolic "dance" is carried out before filing off to change into their fighting mawashi and prepare for their bouts.

A yokozuna, however, is introduced after the lower ranked wrestlers and is flanked by two other top division wrestler "assistants". The "dewsweeper" or tsuyuharai precedes the yokozuna, while the "sword bearer" or tachimochi follows him into the arena. The sword is a Japanese katana and symbolises the samurai status of the yokozuna. The tachimochi will always be the more highly ranked of the assisting wrestlers. As indicated above, during the ceremony the yokozuna will wear his tsuna around his waist. The ceremonial aprons of all three form a matching set.

69th yokozuna Hakuho's Shiranui-style Yokozuna Dohyo-iri.

Once in the ring the yokozuna takes centre stage and performs a much more complex ritual dance. The dance can take one of two forms, one of which the yokozuna usually chooses when he is first promoted. In addition to the slightly different routine the choice of the yokozuna's ritual can also be determined by the knot used to tie the rope around his waist: the "Unryu" style has only one loop at the back, while the "Shiranui" style has two. The styles are named after 10th yokozuna Unryu Kyukichi and 11th yokozuna Shiranui Koemon of the Edo period, although there is no historical proof that they actually carried out the dances that have been attributed to them. Indeed there are some scholars who believe that in fact the two concerned have had their ring entering rituals mixed up by earlier historians.

When a former yokozuna reaches the age of 60, he usually performs a special ring-entering ceremony known as kanreki dohyo-iri, wearing a red tsuna, in celebration of his longevity. This ceremony first started with the former yokozuna Tachiyama in 1937.

Kanreki Dohyo-iri[]

see Kanreki Dohyo-iri for more information.

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