Sumo is a world unto itself. I very much doubt that there’s a sporting culture that is more insular, or has less impact from the outside world than that of sumo. And largely because of that self-imposed isolation from society, the sport has had a torrid time over the past year.
The way the JSA (Japanese Sumo Association) dealt with the Asashoryu situation just highlighted the archaic thought processes that manifest at the top levels of the sport’s administration.
To be sure, Asashoryu has his own issues.
He’s at times childish and petulant, and truth be told, I believe he was promoted to the position of Yokozuna too early. Yes, his dominance of the sport required him to be promoted, but his immaturity should’ve precluded him becoming a Yokozuna when he did. His heart is in the right place, but sometimes he makes decisions more than a little precipitously. Asashoryu’s lack of desire to take part in the Northern tour definitely had a part to play in his ‘injury’, and the decision to play in a charity soccer event in his homeland of Mongolia ranks as perhaps one of the most stupid decisions a Yokozuna’s ever made.
Still, given the JSA promoted him, they should cope a little better with him than they do.
Now that it’s coming out that Asashoryu may have slight mental health issues, they appear absolutely incapable of dealing with this. Prior to now, if a Yokozuna could not uphold the expectations of the position (either due to injury or reduced performance), they are forced into retirement. With Asashoryu, it’s a little difficult. Performance-wise, in every tournament he’s either the best or second best. But mentally he’s not always on his game.
Post his two-tournament suspension, it will be interesting to watch how the JSA and he relate.
Takashi Saito… regarding the death of the sumo wrestler known as Tokitaizan, Stablemaster Tokitsukaze has been sacked by the Japan Sumo Association, losing the right to run a sumo training house. This is the most serious punishment that the JSA can hand down, and the first time an actual ‘oyakata’ (master) has been axed.
Now it remains to be seen if the besieged ex-stable boss will face prosecution from the police.
Euphemisms run rife throughout Japanese media. They all seem to be tiptoeing around the actual death of Takashi Saito. The kid was killed. There was no ‘suspicion of physical abuse’. Not ‘allegedly beaten’. It wasn’t a ‘momentary loss in concentration’. Hideous as it may be, let’s be honest and acknowledge what happened. Only from that point can we begin to work towards
The impact that the slaying of Saito has already had on sumo has been massive. Many junior members of training stables have either quit, or been withdrawn by their families.
Now sumo faces a new dilemma: allegations are being made over match-fixing within the sport. Just prior to his promotion to Yokozuna, Hakuho’s stablemaster was caught on tape discussing match-fixing. The magazine, Shukan Gendai has published the names of top wrestlers they claim are involved, and lawsuits fly left, right & center.
The world of sumo faces dire consequences, and it seems like the next mess appears before the last is even resolved.
The overall solution is clear tho’… Clean up, or disappear into the annals of history.
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