Sumo

Sumo 101: Press club

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Sumo receives extensive coverage year- round in the Japanese media.

While it may not get the column inches that baseball does (understandable when you consider the respective sizes and number of participants in both sports) it’s still a significant amount of media attention.

To facilitate that, the sumo press club has an office between the east side dressing room and hanamichi (entrance aisle) of Ryogoku Kokugikan, and it’s packed every single day of a tournament.

The photographer’s room is even closer, literally facing the dressing room entrance.

In the arena proper is also a long, low table with press seats on the east and west sides of the ring between the fifth and sixth row of tamari-seki (ringside cushions.)

Early in the day, junior reporters occupy those, dutifully writing down all the lower- division results.

After bouts, reporters often interview wrestlers in the changing room or while walking with them as they leave the arena.

For yokozuna or rikishi in the championship race, it’s a media scrum in the shitakubeya (changing room) after important bouts, but generally the pecking order is strict with senior journalists asking most or all of the questions.

An interesting contrast with Western media practices is the heavy use of notepads and shorthand and the eschewing of handheld recording devices.

Reporters also regularly visit stables prior to tournaments and generally spend a lot more time in the company of those they cover than sports writers in other countries.

As with most press clubs in Japan, admittance is tightly regulated and strictly controlled. Requests for press access from foreign media organizations are routinely turned down.

It’s always a shock for writers and photographers from major international newspapers to have their requests met with a response telling them to buy a ticket and take photos from their seats.

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