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Thanks to readers for putting this in the Top Ten most-read JT articles for two days in a row! — Debito
STOP NORMALIZING SUMO AS AN ETHNO-SPORT
Foreign coverage of the new Yokozuna Kisenosato is embedding racism
By Debito Arudou
Just Be Cause Column 105 for the Japan Times Community Page
Monday, February 20, 2017
I know that by now this is old news (blame press holidays and timely Trump articles), but congratulations to Kisenosato last month for ascending to yokozuna, sumo wrestling’s highest rank. After all your efforts, well done.
So what does JBC have to say about it? Nothing to diminish that achievement, of course. But let’s consider how the event echoed overseas. Here are some headlines from prominent news outlets:
BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”
Washington Post: “After 19 long years, Japan has a grand champion of sumo once again.”
New York Times: “For the first time in years, Japan boasts a sumo grand champion.”
The Guardian: “Kisenosato becomes Japan’s first homegrown sumo champion in 19 years.”
Even our own JT: “Kisenosato becomes first Japanese-born yokozuna in almost two decades.”
Hmm. At least three of those headlines make it seem like Japan hasn’t had a Japanese yokozuna – or any yokozuna – for nearly two decades.
That’s false. We’ve had five yokozuna (Musashimaru, Asashoryu, Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kakuryu) since 1998.
Unless they’re referring to the fact that the last four champions have been Mongolian, not Japanese. But that means they don’t count?
Then what about Musashimaru? He’s a naturalized Japanese, and was one (as the Japan Times duly noted) when he became yokozuna in 1999.
So he’s not counted because he’s not a “real” Japanese? Apparently. That’s why the JT and Guardian slipped in qualifiers like “homegrown” and “Japan-born”. As if that matters.
It shouldn’t. Except to racists.
And it matters in Japan because of the embedded racism of the sport…
Read the rest at
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