Sumo wrestlers – October 1991 – © Chris Christodoulou

The Grand Sumo Tournament

The Grand Sumo Tournament took place at the Hall from Wednesday 9 –  Sunday 13 October 1991, as part of the Japan Festival.

It was the first sumo wrestling tournament ever to be staged outside Japan in the sport’s 1500 year history.

Many cultural and traditional considerations were given when preparing the arena for sumo , for example the correct clay for the sacred dohyo (wrestling ring) was tracked down to a quarry near Heathrow, while a huge drum and the ceremonial canopy, the yokata, were shipped in specially from Japan.

The top 40 rikishi (wrestlers) made the trip to London to compete for the Hitachi Cup and the prestige of winning the first ‘foreign’ basho, this included two yokozuna (grand champions), Asahifuji and Hokutuomi. But the main attraction was Hawaiian Konishiki, the heaviest sumo wrestler ever, nicknamed the ‘Dump Truck‘, weighing in at 37.5 stone (238.25 kg).

The most expensive seats for Sumo were cushions on the floor around the dohyo. A ringside commentary explained the rules and meaning behind the ceremony, the matches being full of fun and good humour.


Terao (‘the Typhoon’) v Kotogaume (‘the Plum’) at the Royal Albert Hall:

Weight considerations

One would expect that feeding the 40 wrestlers would be an almost unmanageable task, but the task was perhaps a little too easy; when asked about his thoughts on the UK, Konishiki joked:

“Usually in Japan we don’t have breakfast… foreign food has been good but we get one meal too much I guess”

Other considerations had to be given due to the sheer size of some of the competitors. The Hall had to have the backstage lavatories weight-tested, chairs reinforced and extra large showers fitted. The local hotels had similar issues with testing their beds.

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