The last day of the “Technical Examination Tournament” was held in the wake of match-fixing and other scandals. This tournament was held in-place of a regular tournament due to a very large number of wrestlers being forced retired (they don’t fire people in Japan), so they don’t have rankings to organise a tournament properly. Hakuho, who is usually undefeated, when faced against lesser opponents seemed to find it tougher to clinch victory. Today he lost against the oldest wrestler who is ten years his senior (extremely unusual). I’m sure there’ll be a few raised eyebrows in the next tournament due to be held here in Nagoya in July. The tickets were due to go on sale on the 19th of May (today’s the 22nd), but are yet to be released, perhaps in anticipation of canceling yet another tournament?
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Just tonight on NHK (Japan’s national television and radio broadcaster) has announced that the Japan Sumo Association may cancel the Nagoya Summer Tournament that was due to begin on the 11th July, which would run for fifteen days. The final decision will be made on the 4th July in an extraordinary meeting, whilst the Nagoya stadium continues to be prepared in case the tournament goes ahead.
The sumo association has had its reputation shaken following a string of scandals. The most recent scandal involves a number of wrestlers having betted on Japanese baseball games, including high school baseball tournaments. So far, 29 wrestlers are said to have been involved. Betting is illegal in Japan, and the gambling organisers are typically the notorious Japanese gangsters: the yakuza. Association with the yakuza groups is extremely frowned upon in Japanese society. Consequently, it is expected that a number of Japanese wrestlers may be forced into retirement, so the sumo association can distance itself from known yakuza fraternisers, and rebuild its own reputation.
Previously, other scandals have involved violent practice sessions which resulted in the death of an 18 year old sumo-apprentice, anti-social behaviour in public, and alleged match fixing. Ticket sales to tournaments have been falling since the first scandals came to light, and so far, Nagoya tournament ticket sales were reportedly down 10%. The sport of sumo was until recently a revered sport, and the conduct of players and organisers was expected to be exemplary of Japanese society.
I was hoping to attend the morning training sessions and photograph the opening day at the Nagoya Summer Tournament, and so I’m hoping that the tournament will go ahead. Wish me luck.