Japanese American National Museum
Past Exhibitions

Sumo U.S.A.: Wrestling the Grand Tradition

July 3 - November 30, 1997

Though known as the national sport of Japan, sumo has a long history in the United States. Prior to World War II, the story of sumo in the U.S. is a Japanese American one, where it played an important and largely forgotten role in many Japanese American communities in Hawai‘i and on the West Coast.

This exhibition traces the history of sumo in Hawai‘i from its Japanese American roots to its current popularity and includes an explanation of the culture, ceremony and rules of sumo. It was originally mounted by the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawai‘i and has been augmented with a section on the history of Japanese American sumo on the mainland.

Past Events

Sunday, November 2, 1997
1:30 PM—3:00 PM

Two Strong Women and the Sumo Wrestler

Based on a Japanese fable, this storytelling troupe will engage the audience in the adventure and lessons learned by the characters. We Tell Stories will share three stories with us and encourage audience participation through gestures, movement and drama. Joins for a kid’s point of view as we experience Sumo U.S.A. through hands-on activities. Free with Museum admission.

This program is made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles, Cultural Affairs Department.

Sunday, October 12, 1997
1:00 PM—3:00 PM

Sumo USA: Video Play-by-Play

Learn about the ceremony and technicalities of the art of sumo competition. Gordon Berger, professor of history at the University of Southern California and sumo radio commentator, will take us frame by frame through sumo video footage to explain this ceremonial sport for a deeper understanding and appreciation of sumo wrestling. Free with Museum admission. Reservations suggested.

Sunday, July 6, 1997
1:00 PM—2:30 PM

Obon and Bon Odori

Lecture and Demonstration Featuring Rev. Shuichi T. Kurai

Obons (Buddhist temples’ observance for the deceased) and the festive bon odori (the dancing that follows) are observed in nearly every Japanese American community but do we truly understand the meaning behind these rituals? Reverend Shuichi Thomas Kurai of the Sozenji Buddhist Temple of Montebello will shed some light upon these important community traditions which will include a demonstration of bon odori and bon daiko, the taiko drumming that accompanies the dances. Free with Museum admission. Reservations required. Limited seating available.

Saturday, July 5, 1997
1:00 PM—3:00 PM

Japanese Americans in Sumo

From the 1930s to the 1950s, sumo wrestling emerged as a popular sport among the Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans), especially for those in Hawaii, Los Angeles, and the San Joaquin Valley.

Join Brian Niiya, curator of the exhibition Sumo U.S.A.: Wrestling the Grand Tradition as he moderates a panel of Japanese American sumo wrestlers who participated in this fascinating sport prior to World War II and in America’s concentration camps. Panel participants will share their stories about what it was like to participate in U.S. sumo tournaments during that period. Reservations required. Free with Museum admission.

Wednesday, July 2, 1997

Sumo U.S.A.: Wrestling the Grand Tradition Upper Level Members Reception

Upper level Members reception. This exhibition runs from July 3 through November 30, 1997.



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