Photographer reveals the secrets of Japanese sumo in a book

  • Photographer Lord K2 was granted unprecedented access to capture the secretive side of sumo

The history of sumo goes back centuries. But despite being considered Japan’s national sport and even being recognized by the International Olympic Committee, little is known about the world of wrestlers.

London-based photographer Lord K2 was granted unprecedented access to capture the more secretive side of the rikishi, namely professional sumo wrestlers, and has compiled his evocative images into a new photography book simply titled Sumo.

“There is a great sense of pride within the Japanese establishment that very little has changed about the sport over the last millennium,” Lord K2 explains in the book’s introduction.

“As Japan has moved towards modernity, this corner of culture has remained anchored in ancient tradition.

Sumo is an entity where history, culture, pride and athletics come together.”

While matches draw huge crowds these days, what goes on behind the scenes is more guarded.

“Sumo stables are not tourist attractions; Only a few stables can be visited, and only if the list of behavioral restrictions is strictly adhered to,” explains the photographer.

Showing us around his training stables, known as beya, as well as the Kokugikan Stadium, considered the best venue for sumo, Sumo shares the nuances and pitfalls of the sport.

It fell out of favor at the turn of the century and roared back, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract young Japanese into the sport given the gruesome routines rikishi adopt.

Also, the life expectancy of a sumo wrestler is 10 years less than the average Japanese man because they are more prone to high blood pressure and other ailments.

“Those who dedicate themselves to sport give not only their bodies but their lives. They give themselves as a relic, an offering to the masters and gods of the past.

Rikishi are not just fighters, they are the old-fashioned, traditional Japanese knights.

A century after the last samurai, his cousins ​​are still alive,” declares Lord K2. “The wrestlers are highly revered by their fans, not only for their sporting prowess, but also for the nobility and dedication with which they live their lives.”