Oga Atushi performing the Yumitori-shiki in 2006.
A long standing tradition in Sumo, the Yumitori-shiki (or Bow Twirling ceremony) is a ceremony performed at the end of each the 15 days of a basho where a rikishi twirls a bow in a beautiful dance. The Yumitori-shiki is said to have its origins back in the 1700s when one of the first Yokozunas on record (and one of two rikishi to ever earn the status of Yokozuna while alive), Tanikaze was given a giant bow as a prize from the Shogun Tokugawa Ienari for winning a basho. With great pride, Tanizkaze would twirl that bow and use it as part of his dohyo-iri. When Tanikaze passed away in 1795 from influenza, the Yumitori-shiki was created to honor him, as a closing ceremony for the last day of the basho. Around 1952 the Yumitori-shiki became the closing ceremony for every 15 days of the basho instead of just the final one.
The rikishi that is chosen to participate in the Yumitori-shiki is ranked in the Makushita division or lower and is usually in the same heya (gym) as the current reigning Yokozuna (if there are more than one Yokozunas, than it’s a rikishi from one of the Yokozunas heyas). It’s a true honor to be selected as the bow twirler as that rikishi is the ONLY one to wear a special kesho-maswashi made by the Sumo Association for this ceremony as well as his hair is stylized in the oicho-mage style (no one else gets this hair style). There are SOME that believe being the bow twirler has a curse with it, as to this day, NONE of the bow twirlers have ever risen to the rank of Maegashira. One of the most famous participants of the Yumitori-shiki is Oga Atsushi (pictured above and in the youtube video) who did the ceremony from 2004-2007. He was so good at it that even when he was promoted to Juryo, he was still asked to participate in the Yumitori-shiki until he retired in 2007.