top of page
  • Writer's pictureNacho

Respecting the Rituals: A Mindful Approach to Sumo Photography in Tokyo

I'm always seeking new cultural experiences to capture through my lens. One that has always intrigued me is the ancient tradition of Sumo wrestling. And there is no better place to photograph it than at the Sumo stables and tournaments held in the #Asakusa neighborhood.

As an advanced #photographer who values being respectful of traditions, I have learned how to capture incredible photos of Sumo without being disruptive or invasive. Here are my tips for respectfully photographing behind-the-scenes Sumo training and the riveting action of tournaments in Asakusa.

Gaining Access to Morning Keiko at Stables

To photograph the morning keiko training sessions, you first need to get permission from the heya or Sumo stables. Develop relationships with the oyakata (coaches) or call ahead to request access to photography. Arrive early before the wrestlers wake up. Remove shoes at the entrance and be mindful of etiquette.

During keiko, you can get closeup shots of wrestlers doing shiko foot stomping, stretching, and sparring matches. But always remain quiet and keep a respectful distance so as not to disrupt their concentration. Interesting scenes to capture include:

- Dewanoumi - Wrestlers entering the dohyo ring for rituals

- Mage - Styling of the traditional topknot hair

- Teppo ashigi - Footwork exercises with stomps and slaps

- Tachi-ai - Initial charge and collision between wrestlers

- Nagewaza - Throwing moves like ipponzeoi and uwatenage

- Kimewaza - Decisive winning moves at the tawara edge

- Yobidashi - Announcer with traditional dress and tools

- Chanko nabe - Protein-rich stew eaten after training

Be mindful of backgrounds and angles to avoid distracting or unflattering shots. Always check with coaches before releasing any photos of the training sessions.

#Sumo Exhibition at Marunouchi

When it comes to honbasho tournament time, the action shifts to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan arena. To photograph the tournaments, you'll need to obtain press credentials to get access to the special seating areas. Here are the key aspects I focus on capturing:

- Dohyo-iri - The ring entrance ceremony in colorful kesho-mawashi

- Shikiri - The face-off and preparation before matches

- Tachi-ai - The initial charge and first clashes

- Tsuppari - Rapid thrusting techniques

- Uwatenage - Overarm throw moves

- Uwatedashinage - Pulling underarm throw

- Abisetaoshi - Collapsing body slam

- Kakenage - Hooking inner thigh throw

- Oshidashi - Pushing opponent out of dohyo

- Facial expressions - Emotions of effort, concentration, or celebration

- Crowd reactions - Fans cheering and celebrating big moments

I use fast shutter speeds to freeze intense action shots. Pay attention to backgrounds to avoid distracting elements in the frame. Capture the decisive moment of match-ending techniques like yorikiri forceouts.

Post-Processing and Presentation

After capturing your best shots, carefully review, edit, and post-process your images to share the beauty of Sumo. Enhance lighting, colors, and contrast. Convert some images to black and white for dramatic effect. Be selective and respectful in choosing which photos to share publicly.

Exhibiting the photos in Asakusa galleries or publications helps educate others about the athleticism, discipline, and traditions of #Sumo. With care and consideration, we can keep this ancient practice thriving in Asakusa for generations to come. The key is showing respect every step of the way as both observer and photographer.



bottom of page