The Sumo Dohyo

A few notes on the dohyo, the space in which the Japanese sport of sumo is practised:

The word "do-hyo" means "soil" (or "earth") and "bale" (of straw). Which is what the dohyo is made up of: a good 30 tons of special clay and sand (from the Ibaraki prefecture, northeast of Tokyo), and bales of rice straw. It is built from scratch for every tournament by the yobidashi (the ushers or stewards), a 60cm high platform, slightly wider at the bottom. The area on top of the platform measures approximately 540×540cm, and this is where most of the action happens.

When it has been properly purified and blessed the dohyo is a sacred place. Which, among other things, means that women may not stand upon it! On the Saturday before opening day of Hon Basho (the bi-monthly, 15-day tournaments) a ritual is performed by the highest ranking gyoji (referees) and gyoji from makuuchi and juryo. In the middle of the dohyo six items are buried: salt, washed rice, Torreya nuts, squid, kelp, and chestnuts. From this moment the dohyo is pure.

. . .

On the sides of the dohyo there are built-in steps — fumidawara. Three on each of the sides facing east, south, and west, and one on the northern side (only the north side shimpan (judge) is supposed to climb the dohyo from this side). On the SE and the SW corners are placed the salt boxes and water buckets. The wrestlers use the water to rinse their mouth, and the salt to purify the ring (by throwing it on the ground).

(from Everything2.com)

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