Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Japan: Sumo Wrestling Takes a Beating

Sumo wrestler Asashoryu

It’s been a tough few months in the world of Sumo wrestling, Japan’s “national sport.” First, Mongolian wrestler Asashoryu, one of two yokozuna (the top wrestling class) returned to his homeland to undergo treatment for a mental disorder brought on by criticism that he shirked his duties, pretending to be ill, and then returned to Mongolia, where he was filmed playing soccer. Parts of the media decried how “Japan’s traditional sport” was being harmed by the influx of “foreign wrestlers” and “Japan’s traditional sport.”

Anyway, the problems took a turn for the worse when it was revealed that in June, a 17-year-old wrestler named Tadashi Saito (his ring name was Tokitaizan), who had just entered the tough world of Sumo, had died following a training session. At first his stablemaster, Tokitsukaze arguedthat the death was due to exhaustion, but it has now turned out that Tokitaizan was “bullied” to death, and the stablemaster has since been fired by the Sumo Association.

Many bloggers have discussed the treatment he received, which included being hit with an empty beer bottle. For example, one blogger writes:

「もう逃げ出しません。がんばります」というように言わせたり、携帯電話を二つにへし折り、親と連絡が取れないようにするなど、(ここまで人としてできるのだろうか?)と恐ろしいばかりです。

He was forced to promise “I won’t run away anymore, I’ll do my best,” and they broke his cell phone into two so he couldn’t call his parents. It’s frightening. Can people really do that?

Blogger Matimulog expresses the widespread sentiment of disappointment in how it took such a dramatic event to shed light on the problem of bullying in sumo.

そして、弟子が死んで初めて問題が表面化するというのでは遅すぎるのである。逮捕監禁傷害行為が日常的に行われ、死ななければ問題視されないという環境、それでなければ弟子が育たないし強くならないというのでは、日本の国技というより国恥であろうに。

It seems that it takes the death of a young wrestler to make the story public. The environment is such that assault seems to be a daily occurrence, and it seems to takes a death for this to be seen as a problem, since people seem to believe that without the violence, young wrestlers cannot become strong. This should be seen as Japan’s shame, not Japan’s national sport.

One issue of common interest is the responsibility of the Sumo Association itself. As blogger Shosan no Blog writes:

相撲協会は斉藤さんの死亡直後にも事情を聴いたが、時津風親方が愛知県警の事情聴取に暴行を認めたとする報道を受け、文部科学省から独自調査をするよう指導されたため、再聴取した。同親方の説明は死亡直後と異なるという。

Right after Saito’s death, the Sumo Association asked for an explanation from the stablemaster, but interviewed him again following a request from the Ministry of Education and Culture, after Tokitsukaze admitted to the Aichi Prefecture police that violence had been involved. He apparently gave a different explanation in the first interview.

Finally, while pinning the blame firmly on Tokitsukaze, blogger Igajin no Tensei Jingo talks about the bleak future of sumo.

いまでさえ、新弟子の志願者が急減しています。時津風親方を相撲界から追放しなければ、日本の伝統である大相撲は、やがて消滅することになるでしょう。

Even now, the number of young men hoping to go into sumo is rapidly decreasing. If Tokitsukaze is not thrown out of the sumo world, a Japanese tradition, it is likely that the sport will be destroyed.

Who knows what trouble will befall the world of sumo next.

3 comments

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site