Shunga was an art form intended for a wide audience and therefore dealt with themes that would appeal to many, and for this reason sumo certainly could not be missed. The origins of sumo wrestling dates back to somewhere between the third and seventh centuries and has been an important part of Japanese culture ever since.
Sumo as we know it in its present form, with professional sumo wrestlers, originated in the Edo period. Competitions were organized to raise money to build or reconstruct public buildings such as temples and bridges. From this time on, sumo was not only a sport enjoyed by the rich and powerful but became part of the masses.
Sumo’s popularity grew even further with the introduction of the woodblock print, that often included scenes of sumo events or with portraits of famous sumo wrestlers. Like shunga, the authorities at the time condemned fighting and often issued orders banning sumo.
In shunga, sumo wrestlers appear still wearing their Mawashi (loincloth, Fig.2.), casual wear (Fig.1.), or as giant organs (Fig.3.). Sumo wrestling was also often used as a parody on the battle of sexes (Fig.6).
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