We have a really weird conceit going on in the foreign press (see Washington Post and BBC below) regarding sumo wrestler Kisenosato’s rise to yokozuna, the highest rank. (Congratulations, and well done, by the way.) They are portraying it as “Japan’s first sumo champion of 19 years.”
Well, guess what, guys. Wrong. Japan has had other sumo champions in the 19 years, as you mention. Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu. There as also (oddly disgraced and scapegoated) Asashoryu as well. Yes, they were born in Mongolia. But guess what. Who cares?
If you do care, does that mean you are subscribing to the racist theory (widely held in Japan, anyway, dating from the days of Akebono and Musashimaru) that because they aren’t Japanese, they don’t count as “real” sumo champions? (Both Akebono and Musashimaru are naturalized Japanese, by the way, and were when they were yokozuna less than 19 years ago. How ignorant of you not to mention that.)
Or are you subscribing to the tenet, as the Sumo Association does, that even naturalized Japanese sumo wrestlers don’t count as Japanese?
Or are you subscribing to the tenets, as expressed by racist fans below, that sumo has somehow “lost something” because foreign-born wrestlers rose to the top? Is sumo an ethno-sport? The Sumo Association tried to make it into into an Olympic event, by the way. And would that mean if Japanese do not medal, as happens in Japan-originated events such as Judo, that the event has “lost something”?
Foreign reporters, kindly don’t racialize the sport with these types of headlines and reports. Herald the athletes for their physical prowess regardless of origin. Because you know better. Articles like these wouldn’t fly if you were writing about a sport in your home country. Imagine England claiming (and you reporting as such) that soccer has no real champion every time it doesn’t win a World Cup! Don’t succumb to a racist narrative just because it comes from Japan.