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Work / Photography

Sweat, man boobs and tears – Bex Day’s brilliant new sumo photography series

Photographer Bex Day recently had the unusual experience of getting up close and personal with the big, bad world of sumo wrestling, immersing herself in one of the “sumo stables” of Tokyo. The series is called Chonmage, taking its name from the traditional spiked hairdo of the wrestlers.

“There is nothing quite like the sound of one sumo smacking into another,” says Bex, who visited the sumo stables, or “heya” to explore the strange and highly dedicated lifestyles of the wrestlers. The men (no women are allowed in sumo) live together and get through a daily diet of a whopping 10,000 calories to maintain their average of 148kg in weight. The diet is an unusual one – “no breakfast and lots of chankonabe, a stew composed of fish, meat and vegetables plus lots of alcohol,” Bex explains.

“Sumo wrestlers are considered celebrities in Japan and many come to visit the stables to watch and have their photos taken with the wrestlers after their early morning practice. When I approached them to take their photograph they misunderstood and assumed I wanted to have my photo taken with them, an idea which I quickly dispelled,” she says.

The images are lit in such a way to look both reverent and curious, providing a fascinating peek into the lives of sumo wrestlers, which are surprisingly short. “ Due to the emphasis of weight in this sport, the life expectancy of a sumo wrestler is only 60 – 65 years,” says Bex.

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Bex Day: Chonmage

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Bex Day: Chonmage

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Bex Day: Chonmage

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Bex Day: Chonmage

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Bex Day: Chonmage

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Bex Day: Chonmage

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Bex Day: Chonmage

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Bex Day: Chonmage