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).
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
JAPAN TIMES INTERVIEW WITH KISENOSATO, Nov 11, 2006
…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
HAKUHOU WRESTLES HIS WAY INTO THE HISTORY BOOKS, Japan Times May 29, 2007
A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?
National Sports Festival bars gaijin, and amateur leagues follow suit, by Arudou Debito
Japan Times, Sept. 30, 2003
Readers, add some more links or enclose more articles you find important in the Comments section below…?