Sumo has managed to survive with its formalized ritual and traditional etiquette intact making it unique among sports.
On each day of the tournament immediately before the maku-uchi matches are scheduled, the colorful dohyo-iri or "entering the ring" ceremony takes place. Down one aisle in reverse order of their rank comes one team of maku-uchi rikishi wearing kesho-mawashi (ceremonial aprons). These aprons made of silk and hemmed with gold fringe cost anywhere from 400,000 to 500,000 Yen (4,000-5,000 USD).
The rikishi climb into the dohyo and go through a short ritual ancient in sumo tradition after which they depart to be followed by the other team entering from the opposite aisle to repeat the ritual. Earlier in the day the juryo perform a similar ceremony before their matches.
The leading roles in the dohyo-iri are reserved for the yokozuna who have not taken part in the ceremony up to now. A yokozuna comes down the aisle attended by a senior gyoji (referee) and two maku-uchi rikishi in kesho-mawashi with one bearing a sword.
Over his kesho-mawashi the yokozuna wears a massive braided hemp rope weighing from 25-30 pounds tied in a bow at the back and ornamented in the front with strips of paper hanging in zigzag patterns.
This is a familiar religious symbol in Japan. It can be found hanging in Shinto shrines and in the home over the "shelf of the gods where offerings are made at New Year.
While the gyogi and the two attendants crouch in the dohyo, the yokozuna performs the dohyo-iri (a ceremony with the greatest dignity). After first clapping his hands together to attract the attention of the gods, he extends his arms to the sides and turns the palms upward to show he concealing no weapons.
Then at the climax, he lifts first one leg to the side high in the air, then the other, bringing each down with a resounding stamp on the ground symbolically driving evil from the dohyo. The crowd really gets into ceremony, and it is quite an exciting spectacle.
Next Part IV-The Gyoji (referee) and the judges & the Shikiri