Not that long ago while watching episode 6 of a TV program called The Bible Series, my wife and I saw something that immediately struck us as sumo wrestling, I posted the clip above. The setting of the clip historically is about 2000 years ago centered on the time that Jesus Christ started his public ministry. So how is it then that a sport from ancient Israel could have such a resemblance to something in Japan?
There are many aspects of Japanese culture that are believed to have originated from ancient Israel. After being exiled from their land by an invading nation ancient Israelites migrated eastward across Asia along a trade route called the Silk Road. Eventually they made it to the islands of Japan influencing Japanese culture and ceremonial practices. A Japanese TV program even did several episodes exploring these connections. The final segment of that program, below, specifically looked at the origins of sumo wrestling.
Sumo Was a Ritual of Ancient Israel
From the Japanese TV program “New Theory!? – Mysteries of Japan”
(TV Tokyo Sep. 20, 2008)
The show starts by explaining the origins of sumo wrestling as having started as a Japanese Shinto ritual done in connection with prayer for the prosperity of Japan. In effect, sumo wrestling was done with God. At Oyamazumi shrine there is even a one-man sumo ceremony where one man wrestles a god. This is shown in the video below.
The Japanese TV program goes on to explain further it’s remarkable similarity to a record in the Old Testament of the bible where a man named Jacob wrestles a man who is revealed to be God (Genesis 32:22-32). The Japanese word ‘sumo’ is even explained to have originated from the Hebrew word ‘shemo’ before kanji (Chinese characters) were later introduced. Another Japanese words used in sumo wrestling that has no meaning in Japanese but does have meaning in Hebrew is Hakkeh Yohi (はっけよい) which means something to the effect of “defeat, let them be.”
Something else of interest is that before each sumo match wrestlers throw salt in to the center of the wrestling circle. Salt is also used in other shinto rituals as a way of purifying offerings to god. In the Old testament Leviticus 2:13 reads “… with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” Also, the wrestling circle boundary is made with a rope. According to the Japanese TV show the inside of the rope circle in jewish culture to this day is understood to be a place to connect to God.
Something I found interesting is that wrestling similar to sumo can be found in other countries along the Silk Road such as Afghanistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Korea, Mongolia, and in a few other regions. Who would have thought that something so Japanese as sumo wrestling could be shown to have connections to ancient Israel?! There are actually other aspects of Japanese culture that can be traced back to ancient Israelite origins which I wrote about in a couple post titled does Japanese culture have ancient Israelite connections part one and part two, if you would like to learn more please check them out.