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Role of oyakata re: possible reforms

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Asahi editorial- I'd read it if I were you. OTOH, I'd probably do a lot of other stuff if I were you, so maybe not.

This should be interesting... Getting the NSK to pull that kind of reform might be only slightly easier than reforming the Gun Laws in the USA. I can see more than one Oyakata paraphrasing the Great Late Charlton Heston's line, something about "... over my dead body..." or "...from my cold, dead hands..." or something like that.

But it's true. The old axiom that "just because you are/were good at something doesn't mean you can teach it" holds firm here.

Indeed.

But the intai rikishi are not required to become oyakatas. They are not required to bury their career earnings into being coaches and managers just because they were good at sumo. Nobody forces them to buy kabu and, although they may be qualified to become oyakatas, they are free to take their savings and do something completely different after sumo career.

How many oyakata-qualified rikishis do just that?

As for the prospective kabu investors: how much opportunity do active sekitori have to find out whether they are good at teaching, and make a wise decision as to whether to invest in kabu?

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Asahi editorial- I'd read it if I were you. OTOH, I'd probably do a lot of other stuff if I were you, so maybe not.

This should be interesting... Getting the NSK to pull that kind of reform might be only slightly easier than reforming the Gun Laws in the USA. I can see more than one Oyakata paraphrasing the Great Late Charlton Heston's line, something about "... over my dead body..." or "...from my cold, dead hands..." or something like that.

But it's true. The old axiom that "just because you are/were good at something doesn't mean you can teach it" holds firm here.

Indeed.

But the intai rikishi are not required to become oyakatas. They are not required to bury their career earnings into being coaches and managers just because they were good at sumo. Nobody forces them to buy kabu and, although they may be qualified to become oyakatas, they are free to take their savings and do something completely different after sumo career.

How many oyakata-qualified rikishis do just that?

As for the prospective kabu investors: how much opportunity do active sekitori have to find out whether they are good at teaching, and make a wise decision as to whether to invest in kabu?

True. And in the same Vein, how is it possible to evaluate current Oyakatas on their coaching and leadership methods? I'm sure there are many who are successful at their jobs, but then you have the other guys....

It's one thing to have heyas organized into ichimons, but another to regulate the training and education of the guys in each stable. Of course, this is where the Ministry of Education should take a vital role.

It won't happen. Unless someone far above the NSK decrees it into action. And even then...

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I don't quite understand why a heya owner must be a qualified coach. In no other sports anyone of the participants in this thread would demand that.

The heya owner must have the money to own the heya and must be able to hire good management / coaches, that's all. That's what Mark Cuban and Micky Arison and a lot of other sports owners are doing. Even there the success of the team often depends on the ownership (just look at Donald Sterling), but I never heard that they must know a lot of their sport lest be qualified coaches.

You all are still too much attached to the current heya model. Just lean back and look at it from a broader perspective.

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The heya owner must have the money to own the heya and must be able to hire good management / coaches, that's all. That's what Mark Cuban and Micky Arison and a lot of other sports owners are doing. Even there the success of the team often depends on the ownership (just look at Donald Sterling), but I never heard that they must know a lot of their sport lest be qualified coaches.

You all are still too much attached to the current heya model. Just lean back and look at it from a broader perspective.

But the proposed reforms go in exactly the opposite direction from your broader perspective... :-P They're trying to diminish the "ownership" part of the heya setup, not strengthen it, ideally ending up with the Kyokai calling most of the shots in how the stables are organized and who gets to run them. Hence the idea to buy back all toshiyori-kabu (which would make all oyakata mere employees) and the plan to not allow coaching and managing roles to be held by the same person - in this world, oyakata in charge of coaching will be responsible for the supervision and training of their deshi and almost nothing else. There will be no "general manager" types here, let alone "owners". I have no idea if that's actually the optimal course to take, but all the focus on "how good a coach will this or that rikishi be?" is clearly in line with what's debated by the Kyokai and the reform committee. It's essentially an amateur sports setup with a professional business model on top of it.

Whether anything like this will come to pass is a different matter, of course.

Edited by Asashosakari

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As for the prospective kabu investors: how much opportunity do active sekitori have to find out whether they are good at teaching, and make a wise decision as to whether to invest in kabu?

That's a bit of a false connection between these two items. As things stand right now, if you have the money to buy a kabu you don't have to be good at teaching, as the central office's only recourse against useless oyakata is to minimize their role within the Kyokai's power structure - and if the proposed reforms go through as suggested, money will no longer matter, so no investment needed. The only way that an oyakata's skills* come into play right now is when somebody's sitting on a borrowed share and the powers-that-be have to decide if he's worth pulling strings for when he's in need of a kabu change. Of course, the kabu buy-back plan more or less implies that all oyakata would be on borrowed shares in the future, so...

In any case, in any well-run stable a veteran sekitori has the opportunity to essentially be an assistant coach for many of his later years, even recruiting his own shindeshi already while still active. If somebody wants to find out if he's good at teaching, the communal structure of the heya provides the ideal atmosphere already. In fact, sekitori/veterans helping out in the younger deshis' skill improvement is pretty much reciprocal to being the beneficiary of their tsukebito work, or at least it was (supposed to be) that way before the increase in salaries of the last ~50 years allowed long-time sekitori to make themselves almost completely independent of their home stables. I'm sure there were always slackers who didn't care to give back, but it's surely become easier when you have your own cozy apartment and you're only required to be around the stable for sekitori keiko and lunch.

* That could be coaching skills, managing skills, or just plain reputation (such as being a former yokozuna like Musashimaru).

Edited by Asashosakari

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As for the prospective kabu investors: how much opportunity do active sekitori have to find out whether they are good at teaching, and make a wise decision as to whether to invest in kabu?

That's a bit of a false connection between these two items. As things stand right now, if you have the money to buy a kabu you don't have to be good at teaching as the central office's only recourse against useless oyakata is to minimize their role within the Kyokai's power structure - and if the proposed reforms go through as suggested, money will no longer matter, so no investment needed. The only way that an oyakata's skills* come into play right now is when somebody's sitting on a borrowed share and the powers-that-be have to decide if he's worth pulling strings for when he's in need of a kabu change. ,

Yes, but kabu is an expensive investment.

Does the income of a kabu owner depend significantly on the success of his work as a coach? Is an oyakata liable to find his expensive kabu to be unprofitable because he is not good enough at coaching?

Compulsory retirement for oyakata is at 65, and they normally start in their thirties.

How common is it for existing kabu owners and active oyakatas to sell their kabu long before they have to, in their forties or fifties, because they feel they are not good at coaching?

Of course, the kabu buy-back plan more or less implies that all oyakata would be on borrowed shares in the future, so...

In any case, in any well-run stable a veteran sekitori has the opportunity to essentially be an assistant coach for many of his later years, even recruiting his own shindeshi already while still active. If somebody wants to find out if he's good at teaching, the communal structure of the heya provides the ideal atmosphere already. In fact, sekitori/veterans helping out in the younger deshis' skill improvement is pretty much reciprocal to being the beneficiary of their tsukebito work, or at least it was (supposed to be) that way before the increase in salaries of the last ~50 years allowed long-time sekitori to make themselves almost completely independent of their home stables. I'm sure there were always slackers who didn't care to give back, but it's surely become easier when you have your own cozy apartment and you're only required to be around the stable for sekitori keiko and lunch.

* That could be coaching skills, managing skills, or just plain reputation (such as being a former yokozuna like Musashimaru).

And sekitori who do decide they would be good coaches are allowed to buy kabu while active rikishis - they just have to lend it until intai.

I don't quite understand why a heya owner must be a qualified coach. In no other sports anyone of the participants in this thread would demand that.

The heya owner must have the money to own the heya and must be able to hire good management / coaches, that's all.

The value of the fixed investments of sumo consists of two parts, right?

The common facilities of Kyokai, owned in 105 kabu. Plus the investments (house etc.) of each heya, which are owned by heya master over and above the kabu he also is required to own. Right?

The kabu owners, other than oyakata, consist of two groups of people who are allowed 3 years to find a buyer. Namely oyakata aged 65 to 67, and heirs of oyakata deceased in last 3 years. Plus third group being the active rikishi who have bought kabu.

How long do retired oyakata and their heirs have to find buyer for the heya? And how do active rikishi prepare their heyas, if they feel they can afford a heya in addition to kabu?

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Does the income of a kabu owner depend significantly on the success of his work as a coach?

Only if he's in charge of his own heya. Having a stable with many rikishi brings in a larger amount of training subsidies from the Kyokai (although a lot of that goes back into running the stable if you have that many rikishi, I imagine), and having many successful rikishi (preferably at least maegashira) tends to bring in more private supporters. Mere associated oyakata might profit indirectly from working in a successful stable, but I doubt it's a major addition to their regular salary.

Is an oyakata liable to find his expensive kabu to be unprofitable because he is not good enough at coaching?

As long as he gets to sell it for similar value as he originally paid, I can't imagine any scenario in which owning a kabu is a money-losing idea. And in between he has 30+ year job security at salaries comparable to juryo rikishi. At least right now; if the Kyokai really buys back all shares and parcels them out on merit, who knows what the job security situation will be for future oyakata. (It sounds as though current oyakata might be grandfathered in and would only hand over their shares upon retirement, so we'd see some privately owned shares until the 2040s.)

How common is it for existing kabu owners and active oyakatas to sell their kabu long before they have to, in their forties or fifties, because they feel they are not good at coaching?

Kitanofuji quit at 55, but that was for political reasons. Some others have left the Kyokai in their 40s, but in all cases I can remember the likely backstory was that they were the kabu owner de jure, but not de facto - it was secretly still owned by their predecessor or by a more powerful oyakata in their heya/ichimon, and something caused that person to decide on a transfer to another (retiring) rikishi or borrowing oyakata. Ex-Wakatoba and Ex-Wakanoyama recently left under circumstances that were a bit more nebulous, but I wouldn't be surprised if kabu considerations were at play there, too, and in any case they were oyakata for only a few years.

Other than that...some oyakata have folded their stables due to lack of success, lack of motivation or ill health, but IIRC none of them quit their oyakata career at the same time. There's just no reason to, under the current system.

How long do retired oyakata and their heirs have to find buyer for the heya?

If you mean the physical assets, not the right to run a heya, the answer is: They don't have to. Limiting it only to retired oyakata - some transfer the stable building to their successor, some lease it out to the successor until he's either able to buy it or has set up his own place, some ask the successor to find his own place and then convert the heya building into living space (either for themselves or to rent out), and some probably just sell it on the open market if it's in a good location. Some might have even just been leasing it, so they just let the lease lapse, or let the successor take over the lease agreement. The Kyokai has nothing to do with all that, it's strictly private business of the involved oyakatas. (Heirs will probably go for the open market sale most times.)

And how do active rikishi prepare their heyas, if they feel they can afford a heya in addition to kabu?

Nicely ask your shisho if he will let you branch out later, if the answer is yes make sure your financial supporters will be willing to contribute beyond your active career, start recruiting deshi, then secure a building after you've retired. I don't think there's much more to it. However, we haven't actually seen a new heya created since the requirements for founding one were toughened five years ago (minimum rank yokozuna, ozeki, 25+ sanyaku basho or 60+ makuuchi basho), and with the uncertain reform situation, it's not like there's much incentive to go ahead nowadays. The question might be moot soon.

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Does the income of a kabu owner depend significantly on the success of his work as a coach?

Only if he's in charge of his own heya. Having a stable with many rikishi brings in a larger amount of training subsidies from the Kyokai (although a lot of that goes back into running the stable if you have that many rikishi, I imagine), and having many successful rikishi (preferably at least maegashira) tends to bring in more private supporters. Mere associated oyakata might profit indirectly from working in a successful stable, but I doubt it's a major addition to their regular salary.

Is there any way for the heya owner to reward associated oyakata for doing good work?

How common is it for existing kabu owners and active oyakatas to sell their kabu long before they have to, in their forties or fifties, because they feel they are not good at coaching?

Kitanofuji quit at 55, but that was for political reasons. Some others have left the Kyokai in their 40s, but in all cases I can remember the likely backstory was that they were the kabu owner de jure, but not de facto - it was secretly still owned by their predecessor or by a more powerful oyakata in their heya/ichimon, and something caused that person to decide on a transfer to another (retiring) rikishi or borrowing oyakata. Ex-Wakatoba and Ex-Wakanoyama recently left under circumstances that were a bit more nebulous, but I wouldn't be surprised if kabu considerations were at play there, too, and in any case they were oyakata for only a few years.

Other than that...some oyakata have folded their stables due to lack of success, lack of motivation or ill health, but IIRC none of them quit their oyakata career at the same time. There's just no reason to, under the current system.

Is a legitimate kabu owner thereby authomatically entitled to work as associated oyakata in a specific stable regardless of the wishes of the stable owner?

What is the motivation, on the part of a stable owner, to take an associate oyakata who has run his own stable into ground due to lack of motivation and folded it?

Are there any kabu owning oyakata who have difficulties finding a stable willing to take them as associated oyakata?

When an oyakata is known not to work as oyakata because of health related prolonged inability or other reasons (lack of motivation, incompetence), can he be removed from the post so as to be able to refill it?

And how do active rikishi prepare their heyas, if they feel they can afford a heya in addition to kabu?

Nicely ask your shisho if he will let you branch out later, if the answer is yes make sure your financial supporters will be willing to contribute beyond your active career, start recruiting deshi, then secure a building after you've retired. I don't think there's much more to it. However, we haven't actually seen a new heya created since the requirements for founding one were toughened five years ago (minimum rank yokozuna, ozeki, 25+ sanyaku basho or 60+ makuuchi basho), and with the uncertain reform situation, it's not like there's much incentive to go ahead nowadays. The question might be moot soon.

Indeed. Out of the three last ozeki to intai after tightening of heya founding requirements (Tochiazuma, Dejima, Chiyotaikai) all have become oyakata, and only Tochiazuma has become heya master by inheriting his father

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Is there any way for the heya owner to reward associated oyakata for doing good work?

Assuming the shisho is older than the affiliate, a particularly strong relationship could see a toshiyori swap, with the younger affiliate taking on the 'senior' toshiyori and heya. The shisho, close to or at retirement age, would then take ownership of the 'junior' toshiyori.

The most recent example I can think of is when Tokitsukaze-beya changed hands in 2002, with the old shisho switching to the 'junior' Nishikijima toshiyori and ex-Futatsuryu switching to the senior toshiyori and taking over the heya. Little did anyone know then that he would only have five years as shisho...

What is the motivation, on the part of a stable owner, to take an associate oyakata who has run his own stable into ground due to lack of motivation and folded it?

Generally, a heya folds when the shisho is approaching retirement age and has no successor to take over, or when the number of rikishi is so few that it is probably better for all concerned for them to merge into another heya. Why would a shisho run his own stable into the ground just to get an affiliate job in another heya?

Are there any kabu owning oyakata who have difficulties finding a stable willing to take them as associated oyakata?

Only for political reasons, I imagine, such as the difficulty faced by ex-Kobo after the last round of Kyokai elections.

When an oyakata is known not to work as oyakata because of health related prolonged inability or other reasons (lack of motivation, incompetence), can he be removed from the post so as to be able to refill it?

If he's so ill that he can't work, it would probably make sense for him to sell his toshiyori anyway and use the money to pay his medical bills, or whatever.

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When an oyakata is known not to work as oyakata because of health related prolonged inability or other reasons (lack of motivation, incompetence), can he be removed from the post so as to be able to refill it?

I feel there's a fundamental misunderstanding behind many of your questions. "Oyakata" isn't a post or a job in the Kyokai, it's the condition of being a shareholder of sorts in the organization, by virtue of holding one of the 105 (+ however many non-permanent) kabu. That they're expected to work a variety of jobs on behalf of the organization is closely linked to it, but it's not the same thing. The most similar business model might be that of a cooperative.

As such it's relatively easy for an oyakata to be removed from his (administrative) job if circumstances require it, and especially if the reason is bad health it's not unusual to see an oyakata transferred into a position with a lower work load, likely with his agreement. It's harder to remove an oyakata's right to run a stable, because it's effectively an autonomous side business so the stakes for such a decision are much higher. And it's significantly harder still to remove somebody from his oyakata status altogether, because it essentially requires confiscating his association share. Actually, I'm not fully sure what the decision level would be (75% vote?), as the rare cases in which somebody didn't leave completely voluntarily (ex-Wajima, ex-Futatsuryu) still worked through stern "requests" and peer pressure, basically making the oyakata persona non grata and hoping he won't cling to his share. We might have seen an unsuccessful attempt at that with ex-Kanechika recently, come to think of it.

In other words, short of an oyakata majorly running afoul of the law or the Kyokai's own by-laws, they can get him out of the way, but not out of the organization. Doesn't matter if he's not sufficiently "productive" or whatever one wants to call it; he owns that share and that's normally the end of the story.

Also, I think you're overestimating the link between being assigned to a stable and working for it as a coach. Plenty of oyakata do a lot more work on the administrative side than as coaches. That this primarily - and somewhat absurdly - affects heya owners more than affiliated oyakata is the reason for the reform proposal to separate the two sides completely. Historically it's been difficult to rise in the Kyokai power structure without having your own heya as it serves as your "base" of sorts. It might be more efficient if e.g. Takanohana passed his stable to ex-Takanonami so that the coaching and supervision responsibilities officially laid with him and Takanohana could concentrate on his managing duties (he could of course still continue to coach if time allowed, just not as the guy in charge), but that's just not how things work right now; Takanohana would significantly hurt his political standing inside the Kyokai if he actually did that.

Edited by Asashosakari

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Is there any way for the heya owner to reward associated oyakata for doing good work?

Assuming the shisho is older than the affiliate, a particularly strong relationship could see a toshiyori swap, with the younger affiliate taking on the 'senior' toshiyori and heya. The shisho, close to or at retirement age, would then take ownership of the 'junior' toshiyori.

The most recent example I can think of is when Tokitsukaze-beya changed hands in 2002, with the old shisho switching to the 'junior' Nishikijima toshiyori and ex-Futatsuryu switching to the senior toshiyori and taking over the heya. Little did anyone know then that he would only have five years as shisho...

So effectively the only available position for shisho to give is picking his own successor and resigning as shisho ahead of retiring from oyakata work.

I understand that the promotions from toshiyori to shunin and iin are at the grant of Kyokai, regardless of the opinion of the shisho (or status as such), right?

What is the motivation, on the part of a stable owner, to take an associate oyakata who has run his own stable into ground due to lack of motivation and folded it?

Generally, a heya folds when the shisho is approaching retirement age and has no successor to take over, or when the number of rikishi is so few that it is probably better for all concerned for them to merge into another heya. Why would a shisho run his own stable into the ground just to get an affiliate job in another heya?

I proposed reasons - lack of success due to incompetence, poor motivation or poor health. What would motivate a shisho to take an affiliate oyakata who is expected to be a problem?

When an oyakata is known not to work as oyakata because of health related prolonged inability or other reasons (lack of motivation, incompetence), can he be removed from the post so as to be able to refill it?

If he's so ill that he can't work, it would probably make sense for him to sell his toshiyori anyway and use the money to pay his medical bills, or whatever.

In other words, liquidate the kabu investment, spend (part of) the principal and invest the rest in some other business.

But if a kabu is a profitable investment regardless of the success in toshiyori work, what is the incentive to liquidate the kabu rather than spend savings invested elsewhere and keep hold of the kabu and profits from it?

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Actually, sumo life has always reminded me of academic life (professional deformation, so to speak, since I work at an University). Heya are like departments/research groups, where the head prof is actually very little involved with research and probably bogged down in various committees and what not. It's associate profs (heya associate oyakata in sumo) who do all the "real" work with the students (deshi) and postdocs (sekitori), but without the head profs reputation they would have much harder time attracting grants (sponsors) and new students. And of course the head prof has much influence on who his successor will be... And only successful postdocs (sekitori) can hope to remain as profs (oyakata), but it depends on more than just their skills. And of course, new profs (oyakata) don't get any proper training in managing either students or research, it's expected they'd have learned all that indirectly, from their own experience. Sounds familiar, huh?

OK, back to bashing my deshi on the behalf of my heya-mochi oyakata. :-P

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Actually, sumo life has always reminded me of academic life (professional deformation, so to speak, since I work at an University).

There's another good analogy if you are familiar with a collegiate university like Oxbridge, Durham or London. The individual colleges (heya) are reponsible for recruiting students, seeing to their living needs and basic discipline, training them and then entering them for the examinations. The University (Kyokai) sets the standards, conducts the examinations (basho) and awards the qualifications. The numbers of people involved are hugely different, but the principles are much the same.

FWIW,

Orion

Edited by Orion

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Historically it's been difficult to rise in the Kyokai power structure without having your own heya as it serves as your "base" of sorts.

Indeed - there haven't been many riji in recent years who were never shisho - I can think of only Hidenoyama (ex-Hasegawa) and Edagawa (ex Kitabayama).

Edited by ryafuji

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Actually, sumo life has always reminded me of academic life.

There's another good analogy if you are familiar with a collegiate university like Oxbridge, Durham or London. The individual colleges (heya) are reponsible for recruiting students, seeing to their living needs and basic discipline, training them and then entering them for the examinations. The University (Kyokai) sets the standards, conducts the examinations (basho) and awards the qualifications. The numbers of people involved are hugely different, but the principles are much the same.

One difference is that these days Cambridge Colleges (at least, I don't know about The Other Place) hire professional staff to do a lot of the non-academic work. There's often a Fellow (Oyakata) nominally in charge of something but someone with outside experience doing the day to day work, although in some cases (eg the Bursar, effectively the business manager of the College) the person with outside experience is also appointed as a Fellow to give them the leverage and authority their job requires.

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When an oyakata is known not to work as oyakata because of health related prolonged inability or other reasons (lack of motivation, incompetence), can he be removed from the post so as to be able to refill it?

I feel there's a fundamental misunderstanding behind many of your questions. "Oyakata" isn't a post or a job in the Kyokai, it's the condition of being a shareholder of sorts in the organization, by virtue of holding one of the 105 (+ however many non-permanent) kabu. That they're expected to work a variety of jobs on behalf of the organization is closely linked to it, but it's not the same thing. The most similar business model might be that of a cooperative.

As such it's relatively easy for an oyakata to be removed from his (administrative) job if circumstances require it, and especially if the reason is bad health it's not unusual to see an oyakata transferred into a position with a lower work load, likely with his agreement.

Effectively, sumo world with about 700 or so rikishis does not actually need 107 coaches: not only do the 107 oyakata include the Kyokai administrators but there is also possibility to have some oyakata on sinecure/sleeping partner position and necessary coaching still gets done, and done well. Right?

It's harder to remove an oyakata's right to run a stable, because it's effectively an autonomous side business so the stakes for such a decision are much higher. And it's significantly harder still to remove somebody from his oyakata status altogether, because it essentially requires confiscating his association share. Actually, I'm not fully sure what the decision level would be (75% vote?), as the rare cases in which somebody didn't leave completely voluntarily (ex-Wajima, ex-Futatsuryu) still worked through stern "requests" and peer pressure, basically making the oyakata persona non grata and hoping he won't cling to his share. We might have seen an unsuccessful attempt at that with ex-Kanechika recently, come to think of it.

In other words, short of an oyakata majorly running afoul of the law or the Kyokai's own by-laws, they can get him out of the way, but not out of the organization. Doesn't matter if he's not sufficiently "productive" or whatever one wants to call it; he owns that share and that's normally the end of the story.

Also, I think you're overestimating the link between being assigned to a stable and working for it as a coach. Plenty of oyakata do a lot more work on the administrative side than as coaches. That this primarily - and somewhat absurdly - affects heya owners more than affiliated oyakata is the reason for the reform proposal to separate the two sides completely. Historically it's been difficult to rise in the Kyokai power structure without having your own heya as it serves as your "base" of sorts. It might be more efficient if e.g. Takanohana passed his stable to ex-Takanonami so that the coaching and supervision responsibilities officially laid with him and Takanohana could concentrate on his managing duties (he could of course still continue to coach if time allowed, just not as the guy in charge), but that's just not how things work right now; Takanohana would significantly hurt his political standing inside the Kyokai if he actually did that.

So, it is not particularly important for a shisho who are affiliated oyakata to the heya?

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There's another good analogy if you are familiar with a collegiate university like Oxbridge, Durham or London. The individual colleges (heya) are reponsible for recruiting students, seeing to their living needs and basic discipline, training them and then entering them for the examinations. The University (Kyokai) sets the standards, conducts the examinations (basho) and awards the qualifications. The numbers of people involved are hugely different, but the principles are much the same.

One difference is that these days Cambridge Colleges (at least, I don't know about The Other Place) hire professional staff to do a lot of the non-academic work. There's often a Fellow (Oyakata) nominally in charge of something but someone with outside experience doing the day to day work, although in some cases (eg the Bursar, effectively the business manager of the College) the person with outside experience is also appointed as a Fellow to give them the leverage and authority their job requires.

There's also a major difference in that the different colleges don't compete against each other for a limited number of "graduation spots". I still think the heya system overall is best compared to the franchise systems in the major American sports (especially now that it's become nearly impossible to open new stables), but I agree with Manekineko that the internal structure of a heya isn't far off from the research group model she described. And then on top of that you have the cooperative model of all 105+ oyakata working towards the same goal, keeping the Kyokai profitable (and relevant) - differing from the pure sports franchise model in the fact that about half the co-op members have no direct stake (= no heya of their own) in the internal competition. Small wonder the whole organization is so hard to reform; I don't think anybody would build it the way it is if they were working from a blank slate, but this is what we have after 250 years of development... (BTW, I wonder - back until around WWII when much of the revenue-generating power still lay with the ichimons, were oyakata actually thinking of themselves as "working for the Kyokai" or should we consider the Association of those days as a much more loose arrangement than it is now?)

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Heya are like departments/research groups, where the head prof is actually very little involved with research and probably bogged down in various committees and what not. It's associate profs (heya associate oyakata in sumo) who do all the "real" work with the students (deshi) and postdocs (sekitori), but without the head profs reputation they would have much harder time attracting grants (sponsors) and new students.

Which brings up the question - is it actually a good idea to force the coaching side into equal standing the way the reforms are proposing? Given that several reform committee members have backgrounds in amateur sports organizations, it's probably no coincidence that a lot of their suggestions go in that direction (and beyond)...I'm thinking of American college sports here where the everybody knows the names of the top coaches but the administrative side is just some faceless guys. But those coaches get to use the reputation of their respective universities, while a heya's reputation pretty much is the reputation of its owner, a very select few long-standing stables excluded (Dewanoumi, Kasugano, Tokitsukaze, Sadogatake...maybe Takasago and Kokonoe).

One has to wonder what the eventual outcome of a managing/coaching separation would be. Will it improve the perception of the coaching side at the expense of managing, and big names - the Kitanoumis and Chiyonofujis of the future - will want to stay as heya owners because being a riji just won't have the cachet it does now? (Perhaps with the ultimate result that much of the top-level management activity will fall into professional, non-oyakata hands, with the oyakata squad merely doing the day-to-day work.) Or will the managing side still prevail in public perception and the stables, now run by lesser names, will find it difficult to attract the same level of individual (financial) attention?

It might well be that the reform committee would consider that a feature, not a bug, by making the stables much more interchangeable with each other, and more accessible to central manipulation in the future. I still wonder if the rumoured idea of opening up Ozumo to deshi who haven't finished middle school is ultimately supposed to result in a tiered "feeder" heya system, where some stables are responsible for basic education and training of younger trainees, with others providing the finishing touches (and subsequent career management) for a high-level professional career. You'd pretty much have to break the current heya system before anything like that could be instituted. Of course, I don't know why the scholastic amasumo landscape would want the Kyokai as competition for itself, but the idea did come from an amasumo guy, so... Maybe part of a grand idea where ama and pro are merged so that the school sumo clubs become official Kyokai affiliates and feed directly into a revamped heya system, with their rikishi able to gain professional rankings even before graduation. I dunno. (Would be quite something else to see a jonidan division made up of 12 and 13-year-olds, but I'm not fundamentally opposed to the scenario...)

Edited by Asashosakari

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Effectively, sumo world with about 700 or so rikishis does not actually need 107 coaches: not only do the 107 oyakata include the Kyokai administrators but there is also possibility to have some oyakata on sinecure/sleeping partner position and necessary coaching still gets done, and done well. Right?

Depends on what one considers the extent of coaching. An underappreciated part of the job is the need to recruit new rikishi, and that generally falls on the shisho, both because he has the biggest name value and because it's ultimately his responsibility to decide who gets to join the heya.

One reason it's felt that 50 heya are too many is that this has left many stables as one-man operations, and doing coaching, recruiting, financial outreach and Kyokai work is often just too much for one person, so it would be more efficient to have at least two or three oyakata per stable. But no, I don't think Ozumo (at its current size) would need 107 full-time coaches. It might need more than the number of full-tme equivalents they currently have available, though...at least the recent run of scandals seems to indicate that there might be a need for improved mentoring at the highest levels of competition. The temptations for young athletes with lots of money are large, and sometimes I'm not sure if 50-something oyakata who are decades removed from their own active days can really provide the necessary guidance. (Even moreso when those same temptations were much more accepted in their days.) So in that sense I'm not sure the coaching is really being done well right now. Very hard to judge from the outside though.

In any case, I don't think the Kyokai is overstaffed with 107 oyakata; it's an organization with revenues in the $100 million range after all.

So, it is not particularly important for a shisho who are affiliated oyakata to the heya?

That depends on how the shisho runs his stable, I imagine. But I don't think taking in an oyakata who was previously affiliated to a different heya (or ran his own) is going to upset the operations of a well-run stable. Worst case the affiliation becomes purely for the books and the new oyakata doesn't actually show up in the keikoba much if the shisho doesn't want him around. It's not comparable to gyoji or yobidashi who are truly part of the communal living experience of a heya.

Edited by Asashosakari

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Effectively, sumo world with about 700 or so rikishis does not actually need 107 coaches: not only do the 107 oyakata include the Kyokai administrators but there is also possibility to have some oyakata on sinecure/sleeping partner position and necessary coaching still gets done, and done well. Right?

Depends on what one considers the extent of coaching. An underappreciated part of the job is the need to recruit new rikishi, and that generally falls on the shisho, both because he has the biggest name value and because it's ultimately his responsibility to decide who gets to join the heya.

One reason it's felt that 50 heya are too many is that this has left many stables as one-man operations, and doing coaching, recruiting, financial outreach and Kyokai work is often just too much for one person, so it would be more efficient to have at least two or three oyakata per stable.

Does in mean that lone shishos should not do Kyokai work, and only oyakata from stables with several should do it?

But no, I don't think Ozumo (at its current size) would need 107 full-time coaches. It might need more than the number of full-tme equivalents they currently have available, though...at least the recent run of scandals seems to indicate that there might be a need for improved mentoring at the highest levels of competition. The temptations for young athletes with lots of money are large, and sometimes I'm not sure if 50-something oyakata who are decades removed from their own active days can really provide the necessary guidance. (Even moreso when those same temptations were much more accepted in their days.) So in that sense I'm not sure the coaching is really being done well right now. Very hard to judge from the outside though.

Yes, and the number of full kabu has stood at 105 since the 1927 merger of Tokyo and Osaka sumo, when Tokyo had 88 kabu and Osaka had 17. How did these numbers come to be, before 1927?

However, there used to be jun-oyakata posts. At present, these are only available for yokozunas for 5 years and ozekis for 3 years, and have no takers (Asashoryu is not wanted as oyakata, and Chiyotaikai and Dejima have real kabu).

If the problems are shortage of full time coaches and the fact that their age ranges up to 64, then how about hiring a bunch of 30-something ex-sekitori as jun-oyakata? Since their alternatives to taking up such an offer would be demotion to makushita and below and collecting injuries, it does not seem they would be all that expensive to hire. When they prove to be good coaches, they can be upgraded to available kabu borrower slots....

So, it is not particularly important for a shisho who are affiliated oyakata to the heya?

That depends on how the shisho runs his stable, I imagine. But I don't think taking in an oyakata who was previously affiliated to a different heya (or ran his own) is going to upset the operations of a well-run stable. Worst case the affiliation becomes purely for the books and the new oyakata doesn't actually show up in the keikoba much if the shisho doesn't want him around. It's not comparable to gyoji or yobidashi who are truly part of the communal living experience of a heya.

So, an oyakata affiliated for the books is not a problem for the shisho, but rather for Kyokai, because it is Kyokai and not shisho who is paying for affiliated oyakata? And a shisho has no reason to refuse an oyakata who wants to join the heya?

I see that there are actually fewer gyoji than heyas. What do gyoji do in heyas, and how can a heya operate without any?

Also, as for need to have been good at what they taught: I see that XIII Irumagawa-oyakata , from 1925-1951, was one Kimura Soshiro - a gyoji. He worked at Kasugano stable as associated oyakata. There have been more.

Do oyakata who are gyoji rather than rikishi also engage in coaching?

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Does in mean that lone shishos should not do Kyokai work, and only oyakata from stables with several should do it?

Are you asking what my opinion is, or what oyakata think? Responding to the first, since I have little idea of the latter: While I'm mindful of the problem of oyakata overextending themselves with multiple jobs to do, my main motivation in arguing for a split between coaching and managing is the same that was eventually brought up by one of the reform committees: It is customary that shishos are deemed to be responsible for the troubles their deshi cause (I think it often goes overboard, but that's besides the point), and it has proven to be a huge conflict of interest that the executive side as represented by board of directors consists almost entirely of shishos, often enough even the same guys for whom the board has been tasked with deciding punishments.

That simply can't go on - either they split the two sides completely, or they will (be forced to) install an ethics board of sorts that consists entirely of outsiders and is tasked expressly with supervising all oyakata. I'd prefer the Kyokai to maintain at least some independence (especially from the Ministry, which would likely play a major role on such a board), so I'm in favour of the first option.

Yes, and the number of full kabu has stood at 105 since the 1927 merger of Tokyo and Osaka sumo, when Tokyo had 88 kabu and Osaka had 17. How did these numbers come to be, before 1927?

Quoting from an old post:

Upon the merger 105 kabu existed in the merged Kyokai, though not exactly the same 105 we have today. Osaka-zumo had fallen on pretty hard times by 1926 so Tokyo was the much stronger and bigger organization which was also reflected in the number of oyakata who joined up: 88 from Tokyo, just 17 from Osaka.

The 88 Tokyo-zumo kabu had been fixed in 1887 when the organization was organized in its then-current form, and there had been fairly steady succession for all of them. Osaka apparently was a bit more chaotic with kabu going unfilled for longer periods, and many one-generation kabu appearing and going under. ...

If the problems are shortage of full time coaches and the fact that their age ranges up to 64, then how about hiring a bunch of 30-something ex-sekitori as jun-oyakata? Since their alternatives to taking up such an offer would be demotion to makushita and below and collecting injuries, it does not seem they would be all that expensive to hire. When they prove to be good coaches, they can be upgraded to available kabu borrower slots....

Good question. I didn't like the abolition of the jun-toshiyori status too much; as you're saying, it could have been used as a proving ground for new oyakata. Two problems with it: 1) Its introduction was part of the compromise package after Sadanoyama tried (and failed) to prohibit the buying and selling of kabu nearly 15 years ago, which ended up as a prohibition only on kabu borrowing. I don't think the jun-toshiyori positions were ever liked all that much on the inside. And 2) the Kyokai's business deteriorated quite a bit after the late 1990s, and with the jun-toshiyori oyakata necessarily being salaried at the same level as "regular" entry-level oyakata, the Kyokai were probably happy to get rid of the added expenses again after the other parts of the compromise had been undone.

So, an oyakata affiliated for the books is not a problem for the shisho, but rather for Kyokai, because it is Kyokai and not shisho who is paying for affiliated oyakata?

Yes, all people commonly thought of as "Kyokai personnel" (oyakata, gyoji, yobidashi, tokoyama, wakaimonogashira, sewanin) receive their salaries from the Kyokai, not from the stable they're assigned to.

And a shisho has no reason to refuse an oyakata who wants to join the heya?

I'm sure they can have their reasons, just not ones based on financials.

I see that there are actually fewer gyoji than heyas. What do gyoji do in heyas, and how can a heya operate without any?

I'm out of my depth when it comes to how heya operate internally, I'm afraid. Anybody?

Also, as for need to have been good at what they taught: I see that XIII Irumagawa-oyakata , from 1925-1951, was one Kimura Soshiro - a gyoji. He worked at Kasugano stable as associated oyakata. There have been more.

Do oyakata who are gyoji rather than rikishi also engage in coaching?

It's no longer possible for gyoji to succeed to a kabu. (No idea when this changed, at a guess I'd say 1957.)

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if the Kyokai really buys back all shares and parcels them out on merit, who knows what the job security situation will be for future oyakata. (It sounds as though current oyakata might be grandfathered in and would only hand over their shares upon retirement, so we'd see some privately owned shares until the 2040s.)

You mean 2050s?

The youngest current kabu owner (Kiyomigata, since January this year) is Tochiozan, due for retirement 9th of March, 2052.

The Araiso owner (since January 2010) also retires 3rd of July, 2051 (Kisenosato).

And how do active rikishi prepare their heyas, if they feel they can afford a heya in addition to kabu?

Nicely ask your shisho if he will let you branch out later, if the answer is yes make sure your financial supporters will be willing to contribute beyond your active career, start recruiting deshi, then secure a building after you've retired. I don't think there's much more to it. However, we haven't actually seen a new heya created since the requirements for founding one were toughened five years ago (minimum rank yokozuna, ozeki, 25+ sanyaku basho or 60+ makuuchi basho), and with the uncertain reform situation, it's not like there's much incentive to go ahead nowadays. The question might be moot soon.

The last heya founded was Onoe, August 2006.

The active kabu owners include a bunch of people who qualify as founders under the toughened rules.

Ozeki Kaio. Tochinonada (80 makuuchi basho), Wakanosato (73 makuuchi basho), Aminishiki (63 makuuchi basho).

Takamisakari, with 57 makuuchi basho, could collect 60 if he were not to drop into juryo this year.

Kaio is from Tomozuna heya. The Tomozuna shisho is due for retirement in June 2017.

Is Kaio expected to be an active sekitori (and maintain ozeki rank) till Natsu-basho 2017? Take over some other heya? Or preparing to found his own, Asakayama heya?

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You mean 2050s?

The youngest current kabu owner (Kiyomigata, since January this year) is Tochiozan, due for retirement 9th of March, 2052.

The Araiso owner (since January 2010) also retires 3rd of July, 2051 (Kisenosato).

I was going off those who are already exercising their kabu rights, the youngest of whom is Futeno at 30. (Although I actually had Ushiomaru in mind at 33; plain forgot about Futeno's addition to the club.) I wouldn't bet on the active-rikishi owners being treated the same way as existing oyakata...it's more likely that their shares would be bought back immediately in order to clear up all rental arrangements.

(Did I enter a time warp? Weird to be back to discussing something that was posted halfway up the thread...)

Edited by Asashosakari

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I noted that important questions seemed to have been unaddressed when the thread moved on along one branch.

So, any comments as to the preparations for Kaio

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It is offered only to shindeshi aged 20 to 25, of whom the most successful seems to have been Miyabiyama.

Successful in ozumo, or on the amateur circuit?

Are there any established amateur sumo competitions for middle school, high school and start of university students?

Sure. A calendar of national and sub-national (East Japan/West Japan) tournaments for all levels from elementary school to university is available at the Japan Sumo Federation, and in addition there are tons of local and regional tournaments organized by the JSF's prefectural affiliates, especially at the younger levels (where the preference obviously is for shorter travel rather than more concentrated, higher-quality competitor fields).

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