The most ancient and traditional Japanese sport is sumo wrestling. Prospective wrestlers begin professional training at 15. They live and train at a sumo school where they are encouraged to gain weight by eating large amounts of a fattening stew. Over time, they become very heavy. Sumo matches take place in a ring called a dohyo, the floor of which is made of a special clay covered with a thin layer of sand. The object of a sumo match is to force the opponent out of the inner circle of the dohyo. Each match begins with a ritual in which salt is used to purify the ring. Before fighting, wrestlers intimidate each other with menacing stares. It is forbidden for a wrestler to physically injure his opponent.
It was introduced to Japan in 1873 by an American named Horace Wilson, who taught at Tokyo University. Professional baseball teams have been in existence since the 1930s. High schools participate in baseball championships and compete against other schools. There are also little league teams for children. While most of the rules are based on the American game, the Japanese have modified the philosophy behind the game to emphasize team effort above the achievements of individual players.
Martial arts are popular. Judo, karate and aikido are performed without weapons. Participants use kicks and throws to defeat an opponent. The kiai or “combat shout” is very important and signifies mental concentration. Kendo is a form of fencing using bamboo swords. Kyudo is a form of archery: participants use a bow constructed of bamboo wood to shoot arrows at targets.
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The Japanese have hosted both summer and winter Olympic Games. In 1964, the summer games were held in Tokyo. Winter Olympics were held in Sapporo in 1972 and in Nagano in 1998. Figure skater Midori Ito is a well-known Japanese Olympic champion.
Golf was introduced to Japan in 1903 by the English. Golf is considered a sport for the wealthy and is a symbol of prestige. Many business people go to golf clubs to entertain clients and negotiate business deals. 

Japan has many mountain ranges which provide excellent terrain for skiing. The best skiing can be found on the northern island of Hokkaido. 

Japanese children enjoy kite flying and origami, the ancient art of paper folding. Card games such as karuta or board games such as Shogi and Go, which involve strategy, are also popular. Many Japanese children enjoy video games such as Nintendo, a Japanese invention. The Japanese are constantly inventing new toys. Many have become popular in North America, including Tamagotchi pets and Pokémon cards.

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Many Japanese enjoy karaoke, which means “empty orchestra.” Amateur singers go to night clubs and sing pop music to a prerecorded accompaniment. Pachinko or “pinball” is also popular and pachinko parlours can be found in most towns.