Sumo Wrestling Referees Take Their Jobs Seriously……Very Seriously



Sumo referees are arguably the most elaborately outfitted judges in the sporting world. The brightly colored kimonos they wear in the ring provide a dramatic contrast to wrestlers clad only in mawashi (a cloth belt wrapped around the body). The intricateness of the attire — which is based on traditional clothing — increases as referees move up in rank. Those in the lowest divisions wear cotton and go barefoot, while those at the top are adorned in silk. The two highest-ranked referees also have a dagger tucked into the belt of their kimono for a very scary reason — it represents their willingness to commit ritual suicide should they get a decision wrong in the ring. Fortunately, it’s just a symbolic gesture. If, however, an error is made by one of the highest-ranking referees, they generally offer to resign, and the Japan Sumo Association normally rejects the offer. It’s all a game within a game within a game.