Photographer Offers Rare Insight into the Secretive World of Sumo Wrestling

A photographer worked tirelessly to gain access into the closed world of sumo wrestling, a regimented and revered sport exclusive to Japan.

Lord K2, real name David Sharabani, collated 100 fascinating photos of not just sumo wrestling action, but the culture that surrounds the ancient sport for his new book.

“I’ve always loved sport and been curious as to what goes on behind-the-scenes when the stadium cameras are off,” explains the British photographer.

“The world of sumo has a fascinating aura of mystery and I was curious to discover what life was like for the wrestlers. How they led their lives, what motivated them, and how it compares to the lifestyles of other athletes.”

Sumo has a fixation on tradition and ritual, the wrestlers are forbidden to express emotion during bouts. They are also banned from wearing modern clothing, providing Sharabani with amazing shots of the giant men riding the subway and entering Mcdonald’s restaurants while wearing kimonos with their hair tied in topknots

For the project, Sharabani talked his way inside Tokyo’s “beya,” a collection of training stables where the athletes sleep, eat, and train.

“What I was most interested in was delving into the lives of the wrestlers behind the scenes,” he says.

“No one had documented sumo before and I wondered why. I soon discovered that it was extremely difficult to obtain permissions. But, my patience and perseverance eventually paid off and I am now able to share my experiences.”

In an interview with CNN, Sharabani says that 90% of his time was spent trying to gain access and only 10% spent photographing.

“They take their training very, very seriously,” he says. “So, when I used to turn up, I was often rejected. But sometimes they allowed me to enter. When they did, I was allocated a place on the floor and told not to move from that position and to be very, very quiet.”


Despite nominally being Japan’s national sport, sumo wrestling’s popularity has waned in recent times. According to a survey, one in five Japanese people describe sumo wrestling as their favorite sport with interest in baseball and soccer growing.


“This book is a visual exploration of a world that most know very little about and this is a rare photographic dive into an rarely seen aspect of Japanese culture through its national sport,” adds Sharabani.

More of Sharabani’s work, who also specializes in stencile graffiti, can be viewed on his website and Instagram.

His book Sumo can be purchased here.

Image credits: All photos by Lord K2.