Gaijingai

Sumo Clubs Disappearing In Japan

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I present to forum readers two direct quotes from the article, which purports that these quotes are actual responses people gave for lack of interest in sumo:

“I think sumo is painful and scary too, but I also think baseball, soccer, and basketball are painful and scary.”
“I get it. I even hate going into a pool shirtless. Why can’t men get bra tops too?”

I don't think sumo is missing all that much when the people that want to be there still show up and give it a try. 

 

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Posted (edited)

To be a bit more charitable to the article, one could argue that their point was that sumo doesn't seem to be able to attract people "outside" the system to begin with. But I agree it's not that big a problem when sumo probably has one of the most well-oiled youth recruitment programs amongst all sports.

That said, it's more interesting to also contextualise this alleged drop in numbers. How much of this is in tandem with demographic decline? At the extreme, if the reason the sumo clubs had closed were because the schools themselves had also closed, then it's not a sumo exclusive problem because sumo gets as much of the pie, it's just that there's less pie to go around.

More likely than not the clubs are closing because it's not economical to continue. Honestly, if the performance of small clubs is like the performance of small heya, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It might force sumo families to relocate near a school with a good sumo program, but the upshot of it is that you'll get bigger, more centralised clubs with a wider variety of teammates to train with.

But data data data; one cannot build bricks without clay.

Edited by Seiyashi

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This only shows how important tournaments for youngsters are. They bring awards and honours to the boys and their clubs, which is highly motivating.

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Many followers and fans of Sumo are in denial of the challenges the sport faces. Claiming that birds are chirping and flowers are blooming isn't helping and hopefully by the time they read the writing on the wall it won't be too late. I love the sport and acknowledging and overcoming the hurdles is the only way to secure its future growth and success.

Sumo.jpg

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While I agree with Seiyashi's general points, more than a 25% drop in the number of clubs in only 18 years is definitely cause for concern. ALthough the plot doesn't go back to 2003, one can see the trend in high school closures is much more gradual.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/647344/japan-high-school-number-by-type/

Having chatted with quite a few Japanese, sumo is decidedly not the most popular sport in the country, absolutely dwarfed by baseball and soccer. 

They may have to eventually allow even more gaijin into the mix, although you'd think the lifestyle would be a harder sell to foreigners than to the Japanese. I can't even imagine living in a heya. There are big challenges ahead for sumo, as athelitextreme points out.

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Posted (edited)
24 minutes ago, Kaminariyuki said:

While I agree with Seiyashi's general points, more than a 25% drop in the number of clubs in only 18 years is definitely cause for concern. ALthough the plot doesn't go back to 2003, one can see the trend in high school closures is much more gradual.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/647344/japan-high-school-number-by-type/

Having chatted with quite a few Japanese, sumo is decidedly not the most popular sport in the country, absolutely dwarfed by baseball and soccer. 

They may have to eventually allow even more gaijin into the mix, although you'd think the lifestyle would be a harder sell to foreigners than to the Japanese. I can't even imagine living in a heya. There are big challenges ahead for sumo, as athelitextreme points out.

I recall many years ago when baseball having surpassed Sumo in popularity was news. Now soccer is in the conversation, which doesn't bode well.

There was supposed to be a limit of one gaijin per Sumo-beya. Not only has that number been surpassed, but there are fewer stables too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sumo_stables

Edited by athelitextreme
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3 minutes ago, athelitextreme said:

There was supposed to be a limit of one gaijin per Sumo-beya. Not only has that number been surpassed, but there are fewer stables too.

 

The number of foreigners has been dropping for years, per the sumohypermegagraph.  There's a few stables with two that "inherited" a second when another stable closed down, but I don't recall any cases since the rule came in where a stable with a foreigner was allowed to recruit a second.  I think they've even tightened the rule farther, where it used to be permitted to no longer treat a rikishi as the foreigner once they'd naturalised, but that appears (?) to have gone away.

So... what?

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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, Ryoshishokunin said:

The number of foreigners has been dropping for years, per the sumohypermegagraph.  There's a few stables with two that "inherited" a second when another stable closed down, but I don't recall any cases since the rule came in where a stable with a foreigner was allowed to recruit a second.  I think they've even tightened the rule farther, where it used to be permitted to no longer treat a rikishi as the foreigner once they'd naturalised, but that appears (?) to have gone away.

So... what?

Alright, I recently read there were more gaijins than Sumo-beyas. The numbers show there are 39 foreign-born Rikishi in 43 stables, so this was erroneous, but maybe it's dropped because the number of stables has dropped and it doesn't change the outlook.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_non-Japanese_sumo_wrestlers

Edited by athelitextreme

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Posted (edited)

Can you just stop, please? Your posts in another recent thread demonstrated that the entirety of your knowledge about the topic consists of wildly misunderstood and/or misinterpreted bits of largely outdated information. Your second post in this thread today has managed to confirm that impression. But sure, go ahead and proclaim that "many followers and fans of Sumo are in denial of the challenges the sport faces". That doesn't look haughty and self-delusional at all.

Incidentally, baseball has been a big deal in Japan for over a hundred years and pro baseball's revenues have probably been larger than the NSK's for the majority of that time. (Currently they're more than 10 times higher, over one billion dollars versus the Kyokai's 100 million and change.) Fickle "popularity" surveys mean little to nothing. Everybody knows that baseball has been the bigger sport for decades. 

Edited by Asashosakari
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5 minutes ago, Asashosakari said:

Can you just stop, please? Your posts in another recent thread demonstrated that the entirety of your knowledge about the topic consists of wildly misunderstood and/or misinterpreted bits of largely outdated information. Your second post in this thread today has managed to confirm that impression. But sure, go ahead and proclaim that "many followers and fans of Sumo are in denial of the challenges the sport faces". That doesn't look haughty and self-delusional at all.

Incidentally, baseball has been a big deal in Japan for over a hundred years and pro baseball's revenues have probably been larger than the NSK's for the majority of that time. (Currently they're more than 10 times higher, over one billion dollars versus the Kyokai's 100 million and change.) Fickle "popularity" surveys mean little to nothing. Everybody knows that baseball has been the bigger sport for decades. 

Maybe I'm simply viewing it from a perspective that's not biased. Once again, I want nothing more than for Sumo to flourish and be a dominant sport internationally, but I'm not one to turn a blind eye to reality. Sure, some information is outdated, but it only means that the issue has long been trending, because it certainly hasn't improved.

I'm not here to ruffle feathers, as I have no dog in the fight, so if some forum members wish to live in their reality, delusional or not, it's their prerogative.

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On 20/05/2021 at 11:20, orandashoho said:

This only shows how important tournaments for youngsters are. They bring awards and honours to the boys and their clubs, which is highly motivating.

No question. All of the efforts there are crucially important. There are clearly folks thinking about these issues. I've enjoyed some of the photos from Hakuho's tournament and would love to go some year in the future. I'd also like to attend a small amateur tournament, maybe college while in Japan. Maybe I'll work on that in 2022, depending on how things roll along.

I once saw Ichinojo at max weight do a promotional event where children were participating. They put little mawashi-styled belts on them (over their clothes, of course) and had them do beginner shiko, and then got to play wrestle with some of the boys from Minato Beya. It was all super fun but my favorite part was how obvious it was that Ichinojo's major objective for the day was not to fall on a child.

 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Ryoshishokunin said:

The number of foreigners has been dropping for years, per the sumohypermegagraph.  There's a few stables with two that "inherited" a second when another stable closed down, but I don't recall any cases since the rule came in where a stable with a foreigner was allowed to recruit a second.  I think they've even tightened the rule farther, where it used to be permitted to no longer treat a rikishi as the foreigner once they'd naturalised, but that appears (?) to have gone away.

So... what?

Considering the rule change was in early 2000, it only makes sense because before that, we were seeing multiple gaijin per heya. 20 years on, pretty much a little longer than the span of a sumo career if you assume people join anywhere between 18-20 and retire at about 33-36, those multiple gaijin will be slowly retiring over the last ten years. The question is whether from now moving forward, the number of gaijin stabilises in tandem with the number of heya, which has also dropped from 50+ to the current stable (heh) level of 40-ish.

In other words, from a bit before 2000 to 2010, you would have seen the peak of gaijin in the sport, since some of the Oshima bumper crop would still have been active and a lot of heya which recruited foreigners did so in pairs. But since then, heya have only been allowed to have one foreigner per stable, and the rules were further tightened in 2012 (IIRC) or thereabouts to have foreigner status not go away upon naturalisation (as happened with Kyokutenho and Kyokushuho). Then from 2010 till now, many of those foreign recruits will have retired as their careers came to a close, but some of them cannot be immediately replaced because their stable still has another gaijin. So it's only natural that the number of gaijin dropped as a result of the rule change over the past 20 years. especially as the one foreigner per heya rule essentially prospectively restricts sumo as a whole to as many gaijin as there are heya, which has also been dropping. Even so, you still have your odd stable merger scenario like with Kasugano - Aoiyama and Tochinoshin.

There's also the "phenomenon"(?) of foreign citizens being able to claim Japanese shusshin, like with Kirameki and Hokuseiho, so your "actual" gaijin may be a bit more than 1 per heya on average, too. (If you were thinking of Hokuseiho and Hakuho in Miyagino at the same time, it's probably not because that naturalisation rule has gone away.) So it's a bit more involved than just saying the number of gaijin have been dropping, and I think the interest over where the last batch of university yokozuna contestants were heading, including one Mongol and one Kazakh, shows that gaijin involvement in sumo is not going to go away fast. It is being artificially controlled but supply doesn't seem to be an issue.

One more thing which didn't get mentioned, but I'm not sure how much it plays in as a factor, is the rise of strong sumo programs like Saitama Sakae or Tottori Johoku. Where kids genuinely committed to sumo would rather uproot and go there to improve their chances of making it once they turn pro, that must take away from the possible recruitment for Boondock School in Hicksville, but why it's only now a problem I have no idea.

Edited by Seiyashi

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46 minutes ago, Seiyashi said:

One more thing which didn't get mentioned, but I'm not sure how much it plays in as a factor, is the rise of strong sumo programs like Saitama Sakae or Tottori Johoku. Where kids genuinely committed to sumo would rather uproot and go there to improve their chances of making it once they turn pro, that must take away from the possible recruitment for Boondock School in Hicksville, but why it's only now a problem I have no idea.

It might be that the strongest clubs are the only ones with the ability to recruit enough talent to give young rikishi enough good practice and advice, whereas in the past there was a strong enough level of support for clubs that people didn't think it was necessary to seek out the top clubs/schools in order to have a good chance at making it.

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2 minutes ago, Gurowake said:

It might be that the strongest clubs are the only ones with the ability to recruit enough talent to give young rikishi enough good practice and advice, whereas in the past there was a strong enough level of support for clubs that people didn't think it was necessary to seek out the top clubs/schools in order to have a good chance at making it.

In which case Araiso's choice to locate his heya in Ibaraki may have some knock on repercussions on local support, if there is a school club there to support. That said, Araiso didn't do sumo in school, so it won't be an immediate connection.

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Posted (edited)

The discussion about the viability of Sumo as a sport in Japan very much reminds me of the perceptions about baseball 20-30 years ago in the U.S.  While there is no religious component, baseball was "the American pastime" and was considered part of the American experience.  Then football (not soccer) became explosively popular due to the NFL, and the difference in salaries made the extra danger of a career in football more attractive.  When basketball exploded on the scene,  the supply of baseball players from big cities almost dried up (and I know, I was coaching then).  Baseball, like Sumo, seems like a sport for country kids, and that was no longer hip.

The people who run baseball have done a heck of a job to right the ship, but they still occupy 3rd place in the pantheon of pro and college sports.  They went into the suburbs and shored up the programs there, and salaries at the MLB level are so astronomical that kids can once more dream of being a pro. They also became PR and tech savvy. 

I wish there were evidence that Ozumo was going to aggressively take these routes.

Edited by Yamanashi
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