After years of slugging it out in the raised ring, sumo wrestler Masumeidai now wants to prove he has the brains to match his brawn.
Masumeidai, only the third wrestler to enter the sumo world from a national university, has decided to retire from the national sport and take a stab at journalism, a career move virtually unheard of.
But the 26-year-old, whose real name is Shuichi Tanaka, admits he is dreading the prospect of having to dig up dirt on a sport that has been plunged into the match-fixing scandal, its biggest crisis ever.
“I love sumo, so I want to do a job that keeps me involved in the sport,” said Masumeidai, who will start his new job as a sports reporter for the Chunichi Shimbun, which publishes a number of regional dailies, in April.
“It’s tough because I have been brought up by the sumo world and now I will probably be called a traitor by everyone,” he said when asked how he will feel about reporting on sumo’s sinister side.
Masumeidai, who stands 190 cm tall and weighs in at 140 kg, made his debut at the 2006 Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament while at Nagoya University and reached his highest rank, No. 89, in the fourth-tier sandanme division.
In 2009 he was struck down by a cervical cord injury and gradually dropped down the rankings.
Masumeidai tried to rebound after undergoing surgery but eventually decided to call it quits.
He took the newspaper firm’s entrance exams last September, including writing an essay.
The applicants were asked to write about “time off” in the essay and Masumeidai wrote about his long recess from the sumo ring following the injury.
The match-fixing scandal broke Feb. 2, when police investigating illegal gambling on professional baseball in sumo circles last year discovered a number of cell phone text messages that implied sumo bouts had been thrown.
As a result, the Japan Sumo Association put a temporary ban on wrestlers submitting retirement applications.
But Masumeidai received a formal job offer and made a direct plea along with his stablemaster, Chiganoura, to JSA Chairman Hanaregoma, who gave the wrestler the green light to retire.
He will have his topknot removed at a ceremony in his native Aichi Prefecture on Saturday ahead of entering the newspaper on April 1.
“I can’t wait to read his first article,” Chiganoura said.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.