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How Much is a Year's Worth?

   The Kyūshū Basho, Sumō’s sixth and final tournament of the year, was held last month in Fukuoka. 

   Although I rarely watch Sumō today, there was a time when I was very much into the sport. Until around the late nineties, I followed the sport closely, almost never missing an episode of “Ōzumō Digest”, a program which aired each night during the fifteen days of the tournaments and recapped the day’s highlights. Quite a few dates were cut short, I recall, so that I could hurry home and catch the results of the day’s bouts.

   I must admit, though, that sumō is a pretty boring, especially if you have to watch an entire day of salt-throwing and menacing poses. But back in the nineties, the rivalry between the crown princes of sumō--the Hanada brothers, Takanohana and Wakanohana--and three upstarts from Hawaiians--Konishiki, Akebono, and Musashimaru--made the sport more dramatic than it ever has been. Since the retirement of those wrestlers the popularity of sumō has been pushed out of the TV ring, in a sense: “Ōzumō Digest” stopped being broadcast in 2003.

   Anyways, one of the things that I have always wondered about sumō was the prizes given to the winning rikishi (wrestler) on the final day of the tournament. 

   In addition to a nice stack of cash (no cheques in this country) and a huge trophy, the winner is often given a number of “supplementary prizes” from a variety of sponsors. Most of these prizes come in the form of a “year’s supply of this” or a “year’s supply of that”. For example, a year’s supply of rice, beer, saké, toiletpaper--yes, toiletpaper--miso paste, gasoline, and so on.

   According to the Japan Sumō Association (日本相撲協会), the amounts offered are defined by the sponsor. Ōzeki, maker of the poor-man’s saké, One Cup Ōzeki, provides the winning wrestler with 360x 180ml bottles of their fine saké.

   As for rice, Zennō (全国農民組合, National Union of Farmers) gives the winner thirty tawara (俵) of rice, where one tawara is equivalent to about 60kg of rice. The average Japanese, since you’re itching to know, consumes about 70kg of rice. It takes about 78kg of unpolished, brown rice (玄米, genmai) to produce 70kg of polished white rice, or the stuff you usually find in your rice bowl. A 10 “are” (1000m2) rice field, incidentally, produces about 500kg of genmai. To produce enough rice for the average Japanese consumer, you’d need to have a rice field that was 150m2 (or 45 tsubo), about half the size of a tennis court. (For more on this go here.) The winning sumō champ, of course, is not expected to eat all 1,800kg of rice; he shares it with his "stablemates".

   Miyazaki prefecture has also been known to award the champion rikishi with a year’s supply of beef. In actuality, this is amounts to one head of cattle (just the head, my rancher uncle often jokes) as well as a ton (1000kg) of veggies.

   Bon appétit!

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Reader Comments (3)

These sumo wrestlers never fail to fascinate me whenever I see them either on photos or on videos,. they were out there on the ring, butt naked, but fights like super destructive machines. What I'm really concerned about though is what they're wearing; lots of what if something enormous happen? like wardrobe malfunction, maybe?
Has it happened before though?
December 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
It does happen and I personally have seen a bout where one of the wrestlers, eh-hem, "prairie oysters" fell out of its shell, so to speak.

When it happens, the bouts are immediately paused, the mawashi retied, and, once the wrestlers are back in the position where they had been when the match was interrupted, the bout is allowed to resume.
January 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterAonghas Crowe
I have written and posted that comment a number of times, but for some reason or another it keeps getting deleted.
January 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterAonghas Crowe

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