Different forms of "no" in rikishi names (shikona)

My friend recently got me into sumō (相撲), and it’s been a great new window into Japanese culture (plus absolutely thrilling to watch!). The rikishi (力士) take on ring names, called shikona, and there apparently is a lot of history and custom behind how names are chosen.

Many names use the particle “no,” and I’ve noticed that some use the hiragana form (の), while others use katakana (ノ). Current examples are Sadanoumi (佐田海) vs. Terunofuji (照富士).

I was curious about how/why a rikishi would choose which form of “no” to use, and I found a couple of relevant web pages. This Kanji Used in Shikona article has statistics about frequency of kanji usage, and it shows that both forms of “no” are very common in names, and appear to be approximately equal in frequency. It also mentions a kanji form (乃), which I hadn’t encountered yet.

This forum post has a lot of suggestions about the choice, including: aesthetics, numbers of brush strokes, formality, and historical era. They also mention that some rikishi change the form of “no” throughout their career—so it may be linked to age/experience. However, most of this seems to be speculative.

Does anyone have any more information/sources/thoughts on this topic?

6 Likes

I’m no expert on sumo or rikishi names (and we do have some people here to follow sumo, so I recommend searching for it), but I can say that ノ is just a more old-fashioned style. The use of hiragana for those “glue” particles and okurigana is a relatively recent phenomenon (as in within the last 100 years). Before that, katakana was standard (and katakana is older than hiragana generally. So using ノ looks older, and for some people they might be going for that feeling.

乃 is the original kanji that the の shape is based on, if you can imagine people writing that quicker and quicker until it transformed.

之 is another one that can be used as の, but that’s because its function in Chinese is similar to the particle の in Japanese. You see this one in place names and on gravestones, but I don’t know if rikishi use it.

EDIT: Sorry, just looked at the post you linked, there probably isn’t anything new to you in what I just wrote. Can’t say much specifically about rikishi, unfortunately.

8 Likes

@RoseWagsBlue Might know stuffs

3 Likes

@markelmann also @Kumirei @Leebo

In division 1 right now, I count:
5 ノ
4 の

In division 2, there are some of those plus two 乃。
Sumo is a sport based on tradition. If you spend time puzzling it out, you can often find 力士 of the past that current names are based on. It may be an ancestor, or someone from the same stable.

Some spellings you always know. うみ is always 海. I guess that is because there are no other ways to spell うみ. 膿 is not a potential prospect. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Incidentally, my current favorite name is (かがやき). Imagine if you were a young wrestler from a foreign country, and you were the one fortunate enough to have a name with only one kanji to learn to write your name.

6 Likes

I know of at least one other way to write うみ, which is 溟. But I only know it from kanjipedia, I haven’t seen it used to write うみ in the wild.

2 Likes

And also in the names of Shinto gods and demons like 須佐之男 and 天之邪鬼, respectively, though that feels like a stretch maybe.

4 Likes

I think those can trace their roots back to the original import of Chinese characters since religious symbolism would have been one of the first things to have been written down.

3 Likes