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Kyokai's Attempt to Revive Sumo's Popularity

More discussion on Ozumo's declining poplularity in

> From the Mainichi Shimbun - February 3, 2001 

Yokozuna Takanohana won the yusho for the first time
almost two and half years at the Hatsu Basho held at
the Kokugikan in Tokyo from January 7th to 21st. 
Howerver the average TV rating during the 
15 day period went down below 10%, the first time for
the Hatsu  Basho. 

The number of sold-out days was only five days,
equalling the last year's Hatsu Basho as the lowest
number of sold-out days. "The Waka-Taka Fever" seems
to be just a long gone memory.  Is there any
presciption for bringing the fan interest back to Sumo

The last Kyushu Basho had no sell-out days.  Except
for the 1989 Hatsu Basho marred by the Showa 
Emperor's death,  it was the first time the whole
basho went without any sellout since they started 
recording the attendance.  The last basho of the
twentith century certainly did not go out with a 
bang but the new century hasn't turned out to be a new
and better beginning for the Kyokai.  Even  the days
of sellout at the Hatsu Basho, the upper chair seats
filled up only late aftternoon.

The sumo TV ratings are not doing well either.
According to Video Research company, the average TV 
rating for the Hatsu Basho was only 9.9% in the Kanto
area including Tokyo and Yokohama.  This is the first
time the average ratings did not reach a double digit
since 1990 when they first started taking the survey.
The sumo TV broadcast consistently captured over 20%
during the 1992 to 1994 years.  

Ozumo's declining popularity is underscored by the
Kyokai's financial statement released recently. For
the six basho tournaments last year, their revenue was
10.1 Billion yen, 2.4% down from the previous year. 
Their Jyungyo revenue was 2.4 Billion yen, 5% down
from the year before and third straight year their
revenue fell.  

The Kyokai officials are well aware of the serious
situation. At his special new year's address on 
January 4 this year, Tokitsukaze oyakata, Chairman of
the Kyokai, summoned all sekitoris, toshiyoris,
gyojis, yobidashis and Kyokai workers and urged them
to do their very best to work towards reviving the
sumo popularity.  

Initially planned for a two minute speech, the oyakata
went on for over 15 minutes to complain about frequent
unspirited and henka "miss-if-you-blink" sumo matches.
 "There is no other sport that charges 11,300 yen (for
a Masu A seat) to their fans.  The fans come all the
way to see good sumo matches and you often disappoint
them," Tokitsukaze oyakata pointed out. 

As well after the Hatsu Basho, the oyakata told the
Kyokai officials and toshiyori memebers to have 
everyone conduct their business with a "crisis
mentality".   The Kyokai also decided to lower the 
Jyugyo event admission prices up to 1,500 yen and
introduce a merit system for their employees  
starting this April.

As the Kyokai is finally ready to embark on the new
business plan,  they certainly don't lack interested
parties advising how to restore the national sport to
the former glory.   Yokozuna Selection Committe member
and writer, Makiko Uchidate, 52, complains, "I want to
ask the current crop of ozekis, if they ever want to
become a yokozuna.  I don't get any feel if any of
them has such a hungry spirit ... insatiable need to
fill the emptiness of their heart, that true
competitors possess beyond money and fame." 

Ms Uchidate is asking the Kyokai to consider a couple
of ideas, to - 1) reform the Jyugyo system to enable
rikishis to train sufficiently, and 2) stimulate local
fan interests by choosing a shikona that associates
rikishi's hometown.

Former Tate gyoji 28th Shonosuke Kimura (real name -
Satoru Goto), 72, says, "If there is no effort 
made by everyone to observe the Kyokai rules, there
simply is no point.  For example, take the case 
of reforming 'Tachi-ai'.  I believe gyojis should have
enough courage to do the bout all over again even if
it's completed when the hands were improperly placed
on the dohyo at the start." 

He also talks about the Kyokai's attempt to bring back
the old and proper Tachi-ai standard as the
'no-hands-on' tachi-ai style gained pre-dominance in
the recent years. "They should be seriously
considering how to preserve the traditions that
withstand the test of time and can carry over to the
next generations."

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