comscore Traditional spider sumo tournament held at shrine
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Traditional spider sumo tournament held at shrine

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  • JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI
                                People watch a spider battle at Ichijo Shrine in Shimanto, Kochi prefecture, in Japan.

    JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI

    People watch a spider battle at Ichijo Shrine in Shimanto, Kochi prefecture, in Japan.

SHIMANTO, Kochi >> Last month, a shrine in Shikoku held a special wrestling tournament where local children entered their own critters to compete.

The unique spider sumo tournament was held at Ichijo Shrine in Shimanto, Kochi prefecture. About 50 students, mainly from the local elementary school, brought their spiders to the event, which drew a big turnout of spectators.

The spiders, measuring roughly 3/4 inch to 1 inch, were trained by their young owners. The children found the arachnids in the mountains and at parks.

Spider wrestlers were divided into two divisions: makuuchi, sumo’s top division, for spiders bigger than 3/4 inch; and juryo, sumo’s second-level division, for the smaller spiders.

The match took place on a 20-inch stick, which was referred to as the dohyo, or sumo ring. The spider that caused its opponent to drop into the water below, bit the opponent’s body or wound its silk around the opponent was declared the winner.

One 7-year-old boy entered a spider he had raised for nearly a month. “My spider did a great job. I’ll feed it a grasshopper,” he said.

Though the tournament may seem like a rural children’s game, it is in fact a traditional competition that began in the 15th century. Ladies-in-waiting of a prestigious noble family, who fled Kyoto during a civil war and settled in the area, passed the time playing the game.

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