Interesting Items of the Week: Sumo Scandals!
Short (sometimes) videos or stories about interesting Japanese culture, language, entertainment, and many other things.
I really have a love/hate relationship with Sumo. I really got into it more than a few years ago, but haven’t watched very much in the past 6 years or so. But, it keeps drawing me back in every so often. Why do I have a love/hate relationship with Sumo? Well, I really like the dedication and determination of the rikishi. And, of course, the history and the ritual of it all is very Japanese. Then again, it is very Japanese. In my opinion, many things in Japan have a very group, or clique, way of operating. In addition, there have been many scandals that came to light in Sumo over the last decade or so. Members will protect each other, and it is very difficult to get in if you are on the outside.Freakonomics had a chapter in the book about Sumo and match-fixing, or “Yaocho”. They discovered that when there a rikishi that needs his 8th win to kachi-koshi (more wins than losses) on the last day, he is much more likely to win against a rikishi that already has his 8 wins. Here is a short video about it.
Here is a post on the Freakonomics website about what Japanese people thought about the chapter on Sumo match fixing. Some say “oh well” it is a part of the culture; like an honor type of thing from the Samurai days. They are part of the same group, and even though one rikishi is better than the other, they are still Sumo and better than everyone else. The rikishi with his 8 wins will get promoted after the tournament no matter what, and he is not placing near the top anyway, so why not help out the other rikishi to get his 8 wins. The favor may need to be returned someday when the rikishi is in dire need of a favor.
This here is a well-sourced article that describes the different sides of Sumo match fixing and some of the possible history of it. There are a lot of reasons given why match fixing takes place, and they make a lot of sense. Of course, the Japan Sumo Association has never admitted, and probably will never admit, that match fixing has taken place in Sumo. Sumo wrestlers themselves admitted to fixing matches.
And then there is the hazing and bullying that takes place among some members of Sumo stables. Apprentice wrestler choked until he passes out in latest scandal.
Another wrestler, a Yokozuna at the top rank for that matter, was forced to retire after it was discovered that he had beaten another wrestler. Beaten with a beer bottle at that.Harumafuji had fractured another wrestler’s skull in what was basically a bar brawl. Verbal attacks and other physical punishments have been discovered, and there has even been a death or two in the past few years due to abuse.
And then there is the whole ‘no women’ thing. Look, I get it. Sumo is a sport that is supposedly steeped in a very long standing tradition, and the Shinto religion. Shinto thinks that women are not pure due to their monthly menstruation. Women are not allowed in the Sumo ring, even a doctor that was trying to assist someone that was having a heart attack. Wikipedia has a nice article on these Sumo controversies.
If you would like to get English commentary of Sumo matches, check out Jason’s All Sumo channel on YouTube. He does a good job commentating.
You can watch Hakuho’s ring entering ceremony here: