Netflix’s Sanctuary: Is the Series Based on Real Life?

Netflix’s sports drama series, ‘Sanctuary,’ takes the audience into the world of sumo wrestling. It follows the story of a young man named Kiyoshi Oze, who hopes to make enough money to revive his father’s failed sushi restaurant. When no other prospect presents itself, he is drawn to sumo wrestling, which offers a lot of money. Oze begins his training with disinterest and doesn’t follow the rules and rituals. Soon, however, he develops a respect for the sport and dedicates himself to it.

Directed by Eguchi Kan, the show takes us through an emotionally draining journey by portraying the many failures of Oze before he comes into his own and becomes the sumo wrestler he was meant to be. If you are wondering whether the show is inspired by the true story of a sumo wrestler, then here’s what you should know.

Sanctuary: A Fictional Glimpse of Sumo Wrestling

No, ‘Sanctuary’ is not based on real events. It is an original story written for the screen by Kanazawa Tomoki. The show uses the protagonist’s story to focus on the lifestyle and the challenges sumo wrestlers face. While the series does not take inspiration from any real-life sumo wrestler, the show’s creators have done their best to portray the lifestyle and training of the wrestlers as accurately as possible.

In ‘Sanctuary,’ we discover a tight regimen for the wrestlers that Enno evades for as long as he can. Much like him and other wrestlers in the Ensho Stable, real-life sumo wrestlers also live in shared spaces at the stables where they train under the guidance of the stable master. Their routine begins early in the morning, and they spend hours working on their physique, strength, and technique. The task of cooking, cleaning, and other meager activities falls on the younger trainees. Food and accommodation are provided at the stable. However, the trainees might not make as much money until they get higher ranks.

The Netflix series uses terms like shiko and keiko, which are used in real-life sumo training. Shiko is an important and foundational part of the training to improve a wrestler’s lower body strength. The practice is called keiko, and the wrestlers stick to long sessions of repeatedly wrestling each other to hone their skills. All this training goes into preparing the wrestlers for the match, which usually lasts around thirty seconds.

Apart from this, the wrestlers are reportedly not permitted to drive and are told not to indulge in social media, keeping a distance from mobile phones and girlfriends. However, these rules have been growing a bit lenient over the years, just enough not to impact the training. Another critical aspect of sumo wrestling in ‘Sanctuary’ is that women are not allowed in the ring, called dohyo. The rule is strictly adhered to, which has sometimes become a cause of controversy. According to the New York Times, in 2018, women were “shooed out of a ring” when a politician collapsed during a speech. The women were trying to help the man but were told not to because that would mean they’d enter the ring.

In ‘Sanctuary,’ Kunishima is horrified to see the bullying in the stables in the name of training. In real life, sumo wrestling has received criticism for the violence that wrestlers have been subjected to. “Violence has been part of hierarchical relationships in Japan for much of the modern era, but now it is getting called out – and not just in sumo,” wrote the Independent in a report on violence and corruption in the sumo wrestling world.

The show goes into such a detailed depiction of the world to demystify sumo wrestling. Reportedly, some supporting actors are real sumo wrestlers. Director Eguchi Kan said: “The original theme of this work was ‘the white tower of the world of sumo wrestling.” He confessed that things got really heated when the actors threw themselves into the rigorous training required to get a sumo wrestler’s build. This led the director to “depict a pure interaction and how heat gathers and becomes a great heat.” Considering all this, we can say that while ‘Sanctuary’ might not be based on a true story, it stays rooted in reality. The show’s creators have done their best to portray the world of sumo wrestling as accurately and with as much heart as possible.

Read More: Where is Netflix’s Sanctuary Filmed?