These stamps are the third of 5 pair issues that commemorates Sumo champions. The third issue commemorates the Grand Champion Onomatsu and Referee Shonosuke. Both the stamps illustrated above have a 50-Yen value, color gray, black, blue and red brown. All four colors are in various shades, printed on white un-watermarked paper using the photogravure and engraved process, perforated 13x13. The stamps in design measures 25mm x 35½ mm. The stamps were issued on November 11, 1978. The Scott catalog number is 1335 and 1336 and the se-tenant pair is 1336a. Each stamp has a never hinged value of US$0.95 in the catalog issue 2011. The JSCA/Sakura catalog number is C787 and C788 and the se-tenant pair is C788a. Each stamp has a never hinged value of 100 Japanese Yen in catalog issue 2009. The value is within the budget of most collectors. If you are a Sumo wrestler fan, mint or used, the third issue stamps are a must have for your Japan collection.
The modern Sumo matches follow numerous ceremonial rituals. Before a bout, wrestlers bow, touch the earth, clap their hands to summon the divine spirits, and stamp their feet to chase evil spirits away. They scatter salt to purify the ring and drink special water, ‘chikara-mizu’, to purify themselves for the summoned divine spirits. A match often takes less than a minute. When the referee gives the signal, the wrestlers charge at each other with brute force, utilizing three fundamental methods, namely ‘tuki’, Thrusting, ‘osi’, Pushing, and ‘yori’, Clinching or Grappling, along with over 200 different tricks. The first wrestler to make his opponent step or fall outside the ring or touch the ground with any part of his body, other that the soles of his feet, is the winner.
Who’s that Man running around the Wrestlers with a Fan?
He’s the referee or umpire for Sumo wrestling. He has many names ‘Gyouji’, ‘Gyoji’, ‘Gyou ji’, and ‘Gyo ji’. The most common name is ‘Gyōji’. The referee principal task is to referee bouts between 2 Sumo wrestlers. After the announcer ‘Yobidashi’ singing a chant has called them into the ring, it is the referee’s responsibility to watch over the wrestlers as they go through their ceremonial ritual. Then the referee coordinates the initial charge, ‘tachi-ai’, between the wrestlers. During the bout the referee keeps the wrestlers informed whether the bout is still active. It is possible for a wrestler to brush his foot very close to the edge of the ring. The referee will shout ‘nokotta’, which means roughly, ’You're still in the ring’. The referee also has the responsibility to encourage the wrestlers to get moving when action between them has completely stopped. For instance, when both of them are locked up on each other's arms ‘mawashi’ in the middle of the ring. The referee will shout ‘hakkei yoi, eh’ which means roughly, to continue active wrestling. Furthermore, when a wrestler has apparently fallen to the clay, the referee is expected to determine the winner of the bout. His accessory is a solid wooden war-fan, called a 'gunbai', which he uses in the pre-bout ritual and as a pointer to declare the winner at the end of the bout. If there is no protests coming from ringside judges, he confirms the judgment by then saying the winner's name.
A Synopsis of the Artist
Toyokuni I spent the last years of his career turning out coarse and decadent caricatures of his former efforts, he was nonetheless, a man of considerable talent. Toyokuni I produced a body of work containing many of the finest, most notable designs in the history of ‘Ukiyo-e’. He was the last great master making prints of Kabuki actors and Sumo Wrestlers. His portrait subjects took on a new sense of dramatic presence and realism. It became possible to identify certain actors and wrestlers by their facial features. Toyokuni I was gifted in depictions of subjects. Toyokuni was the son of a woodcarver who made puppets and dolls. Growing up in this environment, he was stimulated by the activity of craftsmen and their tools. As a youth, he was apprenticed to Toyoharu. Many of Toyokuni’s early triptychs of interior scenes of the Yoshiwara reveal his sound understanding of this technique. At the age of 15, while still a student when Kiyonaga, Toyokuni created his great series of triptychs and diptychs depicting the young men and women of Edo’s demimonde. At the age of 20, he was endowed with great vigor and ambition, and with a genuine respect for the printmakers working around him. In the late 1780’s, Toyokuni began producing ‘bijin-ga’, pictures of beautiful women. In 1792, Toyokuni continued to produce portraits of beautiful women of the Yoshiwara and views of their environs. At the end of that year, Toyokuni turned his attention to designing actor prints and published his prints through the publisher, Izumiya Ichibei. During the next decade, which was the period of the artist’s finest work, Toyokuni published his famous series Yakusha Butai no Sugata-e (Views of Actors on Stage) which was to be Toyokuni’s most extensive production. Fujikawa Mizuemon.