A Charming Sumo Match


The term ukiyo-e, literally “pictures of the floating world,” refers to a genre of Japanese artwork that flourished in the Edo period (1600–1868). As the phrase “floating world” suggests, with its roots in the ephemeral worldview of Buddhism, ukiyo-e captured the fleeting dynamics of contemporary urban life. While being accessible and catering to “common” tastes, the artistic and technical details of these prints show remarkable sophistication, their subjects ranging from portraits of courtesans and actors to classical literature. Sumo wrestling became a professional sport in the early Edo period, and was a popular entertainment in the urban areas, along with Kabuki. The development of sumo-e (pictures of sumo wrestlers) coincided with the rising popularity of the sport, which reached its peak around 1780–1800. While sumo-e often depicted famous wrestlers entering the ring, standing on the street, or in the middle of a match, this print instead shows two children in “charming” and playful combat.

Last updated: September 18, 2015