Sumo climbing back

The match-fixing scandal that came to light this year has cost the Japan Sumo Association a lot in several ways. Seven wrestlers in the makuuchi division and 10 in the juryo division have been driven out of the sumo world. The JSA was forced to give up on holding the Spring and Summer Grand Sumo Tournaments scheduled for March and May. It is said to have lost more than ¥1 billion in revenues.

In place of the summer tournament, JSA started the Technical Examination Tournament on May 8 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan. Tickets are free. There are no live TV broadcasts. No prize money from sponsors is provided for individual matches.

At the outset of the tournament, JSA head Hanaregoma said he will do his best to eradicate the problem and to restore the public’s trust in sumo. All wrestlers and other JSA members should keep in mind what he said and earnestly do their part in support of what he intends to achieve.

With the start of the current event, the JSA adopted measures designed to prevent bout rigging. Wrestlers in the juryo and higher divisions and their attendants are prohibited from bringing mobile phones into the Kokugikan. Stable masters are stationed in the wrestlers’ retiring room to watch for anything suggestive of match fixing.

If members of the supervision committee or the judging department detect a lack of fighting spirit in a particular match, they will meet to determine if it was rigged. The fact that these steps have to be taken is sad, but they represent the JSA’s determination to seriously tackle the problem of bout rigging. This is progress compared with the JSA’s past insistence that bout rigging did not exist. But it is clear that these steps are secondary.

The most important thing is that each wrestler psychologically come out of the closed sumo world and become keen on living up to what is expected of him. Wrestlers should be encouraged to have contact with ordinary people and communities through volunteer and other activities. This will help them nurture common sense and noble ambitions. The role of stable masters will be crucial in the proper orientation of wrestlers.