Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Mongolians in Japanese Sumo

There are currently about 20 Mongolians competing in the upper levels of Japanese sumo competitions. Japan has long accepted foreigners into their exclusive sport in the interests of encouraging international interest and competition, but since 1992 when the Oshima stable recruited 6 Mongolians in one go, they have decided to restrict the number of foreigners.

Mongolians have excelled in this full contact sport which is not dissimilar to traditional Mongolian wrestling.  In 1991 one of the great stable masters, Oshima-Oyakata, came to Mongolia with the intention of finding some young Mongolian wrestlers who might be suitable to train in Japan for sumo. One of the originals chosen included Batbayar  (sumo name Kyokushuzan) who reached the rank of komusubi, but has now retired from sumo to become a member of the Mongolian Democratic Party.

Many other Mongolians have risen to great heights in the stables of the Japanese sumo, especially Asashurio, Hakuho, Haramafuji and Tokitenku. Largely thanks to the Mongolians, sumo has become extremely popular  worldwide because it is so exciting. Actually it is difficult to distinguish between Japanese and Mongolians (except if the commentator specifies) because they look similar and the Mongolian wrestlers take Japanese names. As far as the Bulgarian, Estonian, Georgian and Russian wrestlers are concerned, one can tell from their appearance that they are not Japanese.

Haramafuji, previously known as Ama, and before that known as Davaanyamyn Byambadorj, is the lightest man amongst the high ranking lot, weighing in at only 126kg. He changed his name when he was promoted to the rank of Ozeki  (one below highest). Now he is wrestling at the highest level, Yokozuna.
Why don't you come to Mongolia in July for the Naadam Festival and  you will see traditional Mongolian wrestling so you can compare with Japanese sumo ? Or if you're really keen you can come to the Ulaanbaatar wrestling palace in mid-winter during the new year celebrations to see the best tournament.
Japanese sumo takes place for 15 days on the odd months of the year.  You can visit this link for daily  videos of the current bout:

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