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Kuroyama

Sumo's origin as funerary game

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The new Education and Sports minister Mr.Matsunami who just assumed office today severely criticized the NSK..... "Sumo started off as part of a funeral ceremony (???)yet there was no sumo or dohyoiri at ex-Kotozakura's funeral!" he added.

I have read in exactly one place of dubious reliability that under the name "suwu", sumo was first performed in Japan by the Chinese delegation to the funeral of Ingyō Tennō in the 400s. Might this be what Matsunami-san was referring to?

Odd as it might seem to modern sensibilities, this would have been done as a mark of respect. For instance, in the Hellenic world it was customary for funeral games to be held during the observances for prominent, respected people as part of the religious ceremonies or to honor the athletic/military prowess of the deceased. This would have been something along the same lines, perhaps.

But yeah, why no dohyo-iri from Hakuho at Kotozakura's funeral? It would seem the thing to have done.

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AFAIK, most Japanese have Buddhist funeral ceremonies. As sumo is strongly connected to Shinto, a separate religion, it may not be considered appropriate. IIRC, the earliest Japanese form of sumo had it as some sort of ceremonial battle as an offering to ensure a good harvest, or some such thing. Not sure if death rites and fertility rituals are a good match...

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Not sure if death rites and fertility rituals are a good match...

In cultures with some kind of "corn god" death and rebirth cycle -- yes. I don't know enough about Shinto to know if it's the case here.

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