This article examines an early example of martial arts performance in Australia occasioned by the tour of – purportedly – the first team of sumo wrestlers to leave Japan. By examining the performances and reception of the Japanese sumo wrestlers against the backdrop of international political relations, which included the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5, this study contributes to our understanding of the transnational circulation of the martial arts on popular stages, and to our understanding of the circus as a politically dynamic site that nurtured performative transnational encounters. The case of the sumo wrestlers reveals, furthermore, ways in which the popular stage of the circus worked to undermine negative racial stereotypes prevalent in Australia’s homeland culture.
Theatre Research International Vol. 37, Issue 3, p. 265-282