Sumo

Sumo 101: JSA chairman

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

The Japan Sumo Association’s highest authority is the chairman of its board of directors.

The current occupant is 56-year-old Hakkaku, who has been in power since 2015.

Like the majority of his predecessors, Hakkaku is a former yokozuna.

Known as Hokutoumi when at that rank, he won eight championships and was a stablemate of the legendary Chiyonofuji.

Becoming chairman isn’t all about success in the ring, however.

Neither Chiyonofuji nor Taiho, the two men with the most titles prior to Hakuho’s ascent, reached the position.

Political savvy and membership in a powerful ichimon (group of stables) are far more important factors.

Former ozeki and maegashira have risen to the top of the JSA after retirement, and there have even been chairmen who weren’t wrestlers.

The first few leaders of the association came from the military, with one a retired admiral.

That’s something that no longer happens as chairmen these days are all former rikishi, with the exception of former Tokyo High Prosecutor’s Office chief Hiroshi Murayama who was acting head for a short while in the wake of a 2010 betting scandal.

The chairman has many duties, but the most visible are presenting the Emperor’s Cup in the ring to the championship winner and giving the opening and closing address for each tournament.

In January 1992 when then-chairman Futagoyama presented the trophy for the last time, he did so to his nephew, Takahanada (later Takanohana) who at 19 years and 5 months old had just become the youngest title winner in sumo history.

Chairmen, like all members of the board, must be reelected every couple of years. The vote is usually held in even-numbered years with the next one due in January or February of 2020.

The JSA has a strict retirement age of 65 that everyone, including the chairman, must adhere to.

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