Sumo Yobidashi

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Does the yobidashi have a uniform?

The costume of yobidashi is not stipulated in the JSA rules, but the custom is to wear tatsuke-bakama, trousers that are fitted at the knee and then wrapped around the lower leg like gaiters. The most visible job of the yobidashi comes before a bout. He steps into the ring, spreads out his fan, and calls the next contestants.

What do yobidashi do?

The three main jobs of the yobidashi are making rings, beating drums, and calling rikishi into the ring. They also have a variety of other duties, a few of which are introduced here. Yobidashi have so many tasks that they divide them up. They are truly important backstage supporters.

1. Calling the rikishi

Yobidashi step into the ring, spread out their fans, and call out the names of the next contestants, drawing them out almost interminably: “On the east-, Waakaanoo- haanaa, Waakaanoohaanaa-. On the west-, Muusooyaamaa, Muusooyaamaa-.” They call the eastside rikishi first on odd days, and the west-side on even. For one-day events, they always call the east-side first.

2. Beating the drums

There are a variety of drums, all played by the yobidashi. After the pre-tournament ring ceremony, two groups of yobidashi circle the ring three times while beating the furedaiko drums, and then go out into the neighborhood to advertise the next day’s events.

3. Making rings

Rings for tournaments, tours, overseas performances, in individual stables and anywhere else are all made by yobidashi. They also put up and take down tents at touring events.

4. Ring maintenance

Yobidashi sweep the ring before and after bouts, not only to get rid of stray objects, but also to smooth out the “snake’s eye” sand. During tournaments, they repaint the face-off lines at the end of each day.

5. Strength water, strength paper, salt, and towels

Yobidashi are in charge of the strength water and paper, and salt and towels used by rikishi in the ring, checking and replenishing them as necessary. Sometimes they pull the water bucket and salt basket out of the way when a rikishi begins to fall in that direction.

6. Serving rikishi water

Yobidashi sometimes serve strength water to rikishi in place of a losing rikishi. If two rikishi lose their bouts and remain ringside, the next rikishi in the ring is usu- ally served by his attendant, but it must be a man who has won his bout that day. Occasionally, however, there is no attendant available, and the job is left to the yobidashi. This is the case especially during touring events when fewer attendants are present.

7. Inform rikishi that pre-bout time is up

When the timekeeper gives the sign that pre-bout time is up, the yobidashi waits until the rikishi comes over to the salt basket, and then says to him as he hands him a towel, “It’s time.” The rikishi are also reminded by the gyoji.

8. Wooden clappers

The yobidashi are trained to use wooden clappers to signal different in-ring activities. They also use them during the yokozuna ring-entering ceremony.

9. Circling the ring with incentive prize banners

Before a bout, yobidashi carry the banners of incentive prize sponsors around the ring to inform the spectators that a prize is at stake. The banners are referred to as “streamers” and “incentive curtains.”

10. Hand incentive prize money to gyoji

When a bout that carries an incentive prize is decided, the yobidashi hands the envelope with the prize money to the gyoji, who places it on his gunbai and passes it to the winner.

11. Ringside cushions

Makuuchi rikishi have their own personal cushions to use when they are sitting ringside. The yobidashi is in charge of having the right cushion out for each rikishi.

12. Attending to the ringside judges

Yobidashi assist the judges as they change shifts or climb into the ring to discuss a bout outcome.

13. Lending a hand to an injured rikishi

The yobidashi attend to rikishi who are injured in the ring. Sometimes rikishi get a bloody nose, and it is up to the yobidashi to treat it. It is also their job to help rikishi out of the ring if they appear to have difficulty doing so.

14. Gyoji assistant

When a gyoji reads off the bout combinations for the next day, a yobidashi crouches next to him.

15. Yobidashi run errands for the officials in their office during tournaments.

16. Stable errands

Yobidashi are in charge of miscellaneous chores at their stables. They used to prepare meals for elders during tours, but the system has changed and they are no longer required to do so.

What are the conditions for becoming a yobidashf?

Qualifications are exactly the same as for gyoji; they must have completed compulsory education, be a male no older than 19 when hired, and have the approval of the JSA. Other than good health, these are all that are required.

How does a young man apply to become a yobidashi?

First of all, he must have an elder who will accept him into a stable. The elder then applies to the yobidashi organization. As there is a limit of 45 yobidashi, an application can be accepted only when there is a position available.

Are there ranks for yobidashi?

Yes, just as with rikishi and gyoji. Yobidashi ranks were revised in January 1994. There is a limited number of spots for juryo ranks and above, but none for the lower ranks.

No. of positions
2 Jukutate-yobidashi1
3san ‘yaku-yobidashi3
 5 juryo-yobidashi8
6makushita-yobidashino limits
7sandanme-yobidashino limits
8jonidan-yobidashino limits
9jonokuchi-yobidashino limits

Do yobidashi only announce rikishi of the same rank?

Basically, yes. The tate-yobidashi calls out the last bout of the day, with the juryo through Jukutate calling out two bouts each, so actually, the rank of rikishi announced tends to vary based on the numbers in each yobidashi rank.

What are furedaiko drums?

This is the drumming that takes place the day before the opening of a tournament. As they walk through the neighborhood with their drums, yobidashi call out “Hey! Sumo starts tomorrow!” Then they read off the bouts of popular rikishi and add “Make sure you get a seat!” They also visit newspaper offices, TV stations, sumo stables, and supporters. Recently there are many cases in which young men are hired to carry the drums while yobidashi perform. And, since stables are moving out of the Ryogoku area, fewer and fewer are visited by the furedaiko drummers.

What are the yaguradaiko drums?

These are drums that are beat from the top of tall scaffolding structures to announce a sumo event. There used to be four types of drums used, and it took yobidashi five or six years to master them all.

  • yosedaiko: drum for first thing in the morning
  • ichibandaiko: drum beat as sumo trainees enter the hall
  • nibandaiko: drum beat when sekitori enter the ring.
  • hanedaiko: drum beat as soon as the final bout is over.

Nowadays, yobidashi only perform yosedaiko and hanedaiko. Hanedaiko also carries the meaning, “come back again tomorrow,” so you will not hear it on the final day of a tournament or at one-day events.

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