The Sumo Doll Who Chased Off the Bandits

In Japanese folklore there is a strange tale of a magical wooden doll in the likeness of a sumo wrestler. Long ago, five bandits stormed into a wealthy man's mansion. They tied up his family and demanded that he take them to where his riches were stored. In a storehouse the bandits found boxes piled with gold. As they began to carry them out, they were confronted by a huge sumo wrestler with a booming voice, a red face and eyes shining into the darkness.

'Best Match of Sumo Wrestler Dolls' - Utagawa Kunisada, 1847
Terrified, they dropped all the gold and ran away. The wealthy man untied his family and they returned to the storeroom. They found a wooden sumo doll, still sweaty with fresh dirt on its feet. They realised that they had been protected by the spirit of this wooden doll that had been in the family for generations. The man decided to build a shrine for the doll and he prayed to it daily thereafter.

'Fighting with Dolls, Children's Play'- Yamamoto Shoun

'A Sumo Match' - Utagawa Kunisada, 1817 (left panel)

Wooden sumo sculpture, 19th century