Kitanoumi came back as head of the Japan Sumo Association in a once-every-two-years selection of a new head on Jan. 30. His selection as a new JSA head shows that the former yokozuna, who won 24 titles in career, is popular with stablemasters. He became JSA head in 2002 but resigned in September 2008 as an expression of responsibility for a wrestler of his stable becoming involved in a marijuana incident. After his selection to the JSA’s highest position for a second time, he said that to prevent recurrence of such an incident, he will carry out thorough education and guidance.

His job as a new JSA head seems clear: getting rid of scandals among wrestlers, making the operation of the JSA transparent, and nurturing powerful and popular wrestlers so that sumo will win back popularity. Making preparation for smooth change of the JSA’s status to an incorporated public service foundation by the end of November 2013 will be another important task for him.

The JSA was criticized for a series of scandals, including close relations between wrestlers and gangsters. An independent committee on governance of the JSA has made proposals to reconstruct the JSA. But conservative forces in the JSA have managed to have some of the proposals modified because they feared that those reforms would cause the sumo world to deviate from traditions. It is hoped that the selection of Kitanoumi as the JSA’s new top leader will not lead to strengthening of forces that resist modernization of the sumo world. In the past 1.5 years, his predecessor Hanaregoma made efforts to veer the JSA into a new direction. Kitanoumi should realize that he needs to complete the reform Hanaregoma sought to realize.

The reform schedule that the JSA has submitted to the education ministry has many issues that must be solved. As to the future shape of stables, the governance committee proposed putting stables under direct control of the JSA. But it was eventually decided that stables will be managed by masters whom the JSA has entrusted with the job.

The JSA must establish a course to educate and nurture such masters and introduce a qualification test. A high level of abilities to manage stables and educate and guide wrestlers is required of them. Masters should remember that many of the scandals in the sumo world could have been prevented if stablesmasters had had clear principles that conform to society’s common sense.

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