FUKUOKA – Sumo has reached a new low as the ancient Japanese sport received just one applicant wishing to join, the fewest it has ever had since the establishment of the six-tournament system in 1958.
Only one applied to take the exam to become a sumo wrestler by Wednesday’s deadline at the upcoming Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, the Japan Sumo Association said.
Through the previous basho in September, there had been 55 applicants for the year and the total will fall below last year’s tally of 60. The exam will be held Thursday before the test results are announced on Nov. 11, the opening day of the Kyushu Basho.
The spring tournament in March usually attracts the most applicants but only 34 joined this year — the least number since the JSA required all applicants to complete the compulsory education of junior high school in 1973.
In a bid to lure more applicants, the JSA loosened its physical standards this year and even scrapped a specific test for smaller wrestlers to gauge athletic ability.
Sumo has seen a drop in popularity in recent years due to a spate of scandals, including match fixing, marijuana usage, a gambling ring on professional baseball and the hazing death of a 17-year-old trainee in 2007.