The Japan Sumo Association said Wednesday that no one applied to join professional sumo ahead of the upcoming Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, marking the second time this had happened under the current system.
With no applicants, the JSA was forced to cancel its new recruit tests, which are conducted prior to each of the six tournaments. According to the association’s public relations division, this had only previously occurred at the 2007 Nagoya Basho.
The sport’s reputation has suffered numerous blows to its public image since November, following former yokozuna Harumafuji’s assault of a lower-ranked wrestler.
In January, sumo’s highest ranked referee was found to have sexually harassed a junior referee while drunk and quit. In March, Egyptian juryo division wrestler Osunaarashi was asked to retire after being involved in a car accident while driving without a license.
One sumo elder said he scouted two prospective applicants, but neither took the next step.
“Never heard from them,” he said. “When we have this many things going on, there’s not a lot that can be done.”
The lack of applicants in July 2007 followed immediately after the suspicious death of 17-year-old apprentice wrestler Tokitaizan. The youngster’s death was originally attributed to heart failure during training, but it came out later that he had beaten by his stablemaster and his stablemates.
However, recruiting ahead of the Nagoya meet, which begins on July 8, has always been slow. Applicants ahead of the July tourney have not reached double digits since 1986. Just nine prospective wrestlers applied to join the sumo world in the previous three years in Nagoya. Since the six Grand Sumo Tournament system was introduced in 1958, the number of applicants ahead of the Nagoya tourney maxed out at 49 in 1963.
“This is an issue, and not just because we had zero applicants,” said elder Oguruma, the JSA’s business director. “In order to gain recruits, we need to listen to what our younger colleagues (among the sport’s elders) have to say about this.
“I want us to deal with this issue in the best way we possibly can.”