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  • Fun Facts #7: Latest Sumo Banzuke shows one third of top ranked are NJ (UPDATED)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on June 29th, 2007

    Hi Blog. Not a big sports fan by any means (and I won’t analyze this too deeply, since there are plenty of others out there who see and know a lot more about Sumo), but perusing the Nikkan Sports pages while on the road the other day, I saw on page 12 of the issue dated June 26, 2007, the following Fun Facts:

    1) THE TWO TOP WRESTLERS (NOW WITH HAKUHOU BECOMING YOKOZUNA) ARE NOW MONGOLIAN
    (this is not unprecedented–Hawaiians Akebono and Musashimaru have also done this, but there were also Takanohana and Wakanohana as Yokozuna to balance them out in the 1990’s)

    2) NEARLY ONE-THIRD OF THE TOP RANKS (MAKUNOUCHI, i.e. YOKOZUNA TO MAEGASHIRA 17)–THIRTEEN OUT OF THE 42, ARE OF OVERSEAS ORIGIN

    3) BROKEN DOWN BY NATIONALITY (apologies for any misread names, corrections appreciated):

    ============================
    SEVEN MONGOLIANS (Asashouryuu, Hakuhou, Tokitenkuu, Ama, Asasekiryuu, Tsururyuu, Ryuuou)

    TWO RUSSIANS (Rouhou, Hakurousan)

    ONE BULGARIAN (Kotooushuu)

    ONE KOREAN (Kasugaou)

    ONE GEORGIAN (Kokkai)

    ONE ESTONIAN (Baruto)
    ============================

    4) And currently in the lower ranks (Juuryou and Makushita), we have another eight NJ listed out of the 48–and seven of those are Mongolian (the other Russian).

    CAVEAT:

    Crystal-balling on Japan’s internationalization based upon rankings in Sport–especially Sumo (where rankings change very quickly, particularly in the ranks that don’t attract the attention of many fans) is difficult.

    But this is pretty impressive, especially when I remember the bad old days when the Sumo Kyoukai doubted foreigners would ever have the proper “spirit” to achieve the enlightened ranks of the coveted Yokozuna. Then came Akebono. Now it seems as though NJ in general, and Mongolians in particular, have come into their own in one of the world’s most exclusive and entertwined-with-nationality sports (the word “kokugi”, anyone?). Bravo.

    That’s all the interpretation of the stats I’ll offer. But it’s a development, now with Hakuhou’s ascent to Yokozuna, that Debito.org should observe as well.

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    REFERENTIAL LINKS:

    ==========================
    JAPAN TIMES INTERVIEW WITH KISENOSATO, Nov 11, 2006
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ss20061111a1.html:

    …Now that you are a regular in the upper makunouchi ranks, how do you feel about all the foreign participation in sumo nowadays?

    I know there are a lot of different nationalities now in sumo but I don’t see any of the foreign born rikishi as anything other than rikishi. Rikishi are rikishi to me.

    In the stadiums and on television, via the Internet too, there seem to be more and more non-Japanese fans following the sport. Do you think this is good for sumo?

    Definitely. At many of the basho I see more and more foreign people, even in the masu-seki box seats and it makes me happy as it gives me extra power to want to try harder.

    In these days of so much dominance by non-Japanese rikishi, many Japanese and even foreign fans see yourself and Homasho-zeki as the bright Japanese hopes for the future — how do you feel about that?

    I do like the attention, but there are so many rikishi in sumo nowadays that I just feel honored to be able to fight them as best I can.
    ==========================

    JAPAN TIMES INTERVIEW WITH ESTONIAN BARUTO, March 1, 2005

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20050301zg.html

    ==========================

    HAKUHOU WRESTLES HIS WAY INTO THE HISTORY BOOKS, Japan Times May 29, 2007
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ss20070529a1.html

    ==========================

    A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?
    National Sports Festival bars gaijin, and amateur leagues follow suit, by Arudou Debito
    Japan Times, Sept. 30, 2003
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20030930zg.html

    Even more links here

    Readers, add some more links or enclose more articles you find important in the Comments section below…?

    3 Responses to “Fun Facts #7: Latest Sumo Banzuke shows one third of top ranked are NJ (UPDATED)”

    1. debito Says:

      REFERENTIAL ARTICLE HERE ON THE FUTURE OF SUMO, FROM JAPAN TODAY. THANKS TO 3YEN.COM. DEBITO

      SPORT
      Sumo association gets no new applicants
      Japan Today.com Monday, July 2, 2007 at 07:00 EDT

      http://www.japantoday.com/jp/news/411071

      NAGOYA — Sumo’s status as Japan’s national sport has been jeopardized further as no one applied for the tests for new recruits for the first time ever, sumo officials said Sunday. The Japan Sumo Association was forced to cancel the tests scheduled for Monday after receiving no applications from would-be professionals prior to the Sunday’s deadline, a week before the start of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

      According to the JSA, it was the first time in sumo history that the association had no applicants for such tests, which are conducted prior to each of the six tournaments held a year. The JSA has had recruiting problems since the popularity of sumo began to decline in the late 1990s and the number of applicants has not reached 100 a year the last eight years, while foreign wrestlers have grown in numbers and steadily made their marks.

      =====================
      3YEN.COM ADDS:

      Of course, the rest-of-the-story is far more “interesting.”

      1) The first fun factiod is that nearly one-thirds of the top ranks of sumo—thirteen out of the 42—are are not Japanese. And, the two top sumo champions, Yokozuna, are now Mongolian—there are no Japanese in the champion class. Japanese folks have less interest because sumo itself is less “Japanese.”

      2) A second sadder factoid is that sumo is killing its own.
      According to MSN-Mainichi News, the sumo wrestler, Tokitaizan, died after collapsing during practice from so-called “heart failure” at age 17 on June 28. There are reports in the Japanese press that the boy’s body had a split ear, a swollen face and there was evidence of burns on his body from a cigarette. The dark secret in sumo is that abuse and hazing “builds character.”
      In light of these facts, it’s understandable that no young Japanese guy wants to apply to the Sumo Association’s tests for recruits.

      LINKS FROM
      http://news.3yen.com/2007-07-02/what-if-they-have-sumo-tourney-and-nobody-came/
      ENDS

    2. debito Says:

      17-year-old sumo wrestler dies in suspicious circumstances
      Japan Today Wednesday, July 18, 2007
      http://www.japantoday.com/jp/kuchikomi/472

      On June 26, Tokitaizan, a 17-year-old sumo wrestler apprenticed to the Tokitsukaze stable, was pronounced dead at the stable’s training camp in Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture. Tokitaizan, whose real name was Takashi Saito, had only joined the stable the previous May.

      An autopsy performed at Niigata University medical school determined the cause of death to be heart failure caused by shock from external injuries. But the headline in Asahi Geino (July 12) uses a different term to describe his death: he had been “lynched” — an English borrowing that refers not to an extrajudicial hanging, but a gang beating.

      “His body was swathed in bandages, and several teeth were cracked or missing,” says a relative of the deceased. “We’d spoken by phone not long before, and he told me he’d been knocked around just for dropping some rubbish. ‘It’s awful,’ was how he put it.”

      A newspaper quoted an uncle of the deceased as saying that he’d passed the physical exam for new sumo entrants and that heart disease was “unthinkable.”

      ”Tokitaizan’s ear was torn, and there was evidence that he’d been made to undergo what they call ‘konjo-yaki’ (tolerance burns), made with a burning cigarette, on his upper thigh,” a media source tells Asahi Geino. “His nose and ribs were fractured. The boy’s father reportedly asked the stablemaster (former komusubi Futatsuryu): ‘Are those the kind of injuries that you see from practice?’”

      At a press conference two days after the death, stablemaster Tokitsukaze aid the deceased youth had “smoked marijuana in his past” and “was unable to kick the cigarette habit.”

      But upon further investigation, Asahi Geino learned that the boy was subjected to a severe exercise regimen.

      According to a veteran sumo reporter, Tokitaizan’s time of death was confirmed after 2 p.m. His condition took a turn for the worse around 12:40, when the senior wrestlers were either finishing up their baths or taking lunch. By that time, the other low-ranked wrestlers, who began their workouts from 6 a.m., were off running errands. But Tokitaizan was apparently singled out for a special prolonged disciplinary session.

      “Tokitaizan had tried to flee the stable three times in the course of a month,” the reporter relates. “He was brought back, but this figure alone is exceptional.”

      Apparently at practice that day, neither stablemaster Tokitsukaze nor top division wrestler Toyonoshima were present.

      “His stablemates forced him to do ‘butsukari-geiko’ (an exhausting conditioning regimen, administered at the end of the session, that involves pushing another wrestler across the ring) for 30 minutes,” relates a source close to the stable. “Typically, it’s seldom done for as long as five minutes. Tokitaizan finally passed out. They lifted him off to the side of the ring and let him ‘rest’ for an hour, and when they checked on him, he had no pulse.”

      Japan Sumo Association head Kitanoumi was later heard to insist on more rigorous physical examinations, which all wrestlers must undergo every six months. But, the magazine opines, the autopsy findings of shock due to external injury suggest his priorities are confused.

      “Just before the May tournament in Tokyo, an incident involving violence by Tokitsukaze stable wrestlers led to an injury,” says sumo writer Kiyoshi Nakazawa. “It’s a pity no one took any proactive measures.”

      “The reason they didn’t allow him to run away may also reflect on the dearth of new sumo recruits,” the veteran reporter tells Asahi Geino. “If they had other apprentices, they would have probably just let him go.”

      Tokitaizan’s father, Masato Saito, tells the magazine he has no plans to initiate legal action against the stable. “It won’t bring my son back,” he sighs. “I’d want to see measures adopted to make sure this kind of thing never happens again.”

      First, bout-fixing scandals, and now the death of a young apprentice. Sumo, the magazine concludes, desperately needs to clean house.

      July 5, 2007
      ENDS

    3. He’s Just a Little Sumo Baby! « LongCountdown.com Says:

      [...] Sure, he may not be “100% pure“, but none of the top sumo wrestlers are. Apparently, at the time of writing, the top two wrestlers are Mongolian. Arudou Debito has some interesting facts on the nationalities of the top sumo wrestlers in his article, Latest Sumo Banzuke shows one third of top ranked are NJ. These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

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