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RE: Kyokai's Attempt to Revive Sumo's 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.

Perhaps Tokitsukaze-rijicho should consider lowering the prices of
masu-seats in order to help sumo popularity.  Japan is in a recession, after
all.

> 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."

I guess some people never learn.  After saying she felt sorry for saying so
many bad things about Akebono before actually finding out what a polite,
courteous guy he is, Uchidate goes ahead and starts bad mouthing the Ozeki.
I wish she read this list, because I'd like to draw some points to her
attention.  First, the Ozeki are very young.  Kaio is the oldest, and the
closest to Yokozuna, according to all the pundits.  Musoyama is the next
oldest, and the Kyokai knew they were getting an older, injury prone Ozeki
when they promoted him.  Other than that Chiyotaikai is the same age as
Wakanosato and Kotomitsuki, the young hopes of the future.  Dejima is only
slightly older, and Miyabiyama a year younger.  What does this mean?  It
means that they will get better.  No one expects Wakanosato or Kotomitsuki
to take the Yusho, yet.  Three of the five Ozeki are still developing, as
well.  Also, I've brought this up before, but the banzuke's pretty top heavy
right now.  It's barely mathematically possible, and pretty mathematically
unlikely that all five will get 10-5 or better records every basho.
Akebono's retirement will definitely help things a bit, but still, some
leeway should be allowed, I think.  Next, no one campaigns for Ozeki.  It's
a rank that is unilaterally conferred by the Kyokai.  If the Ozeki are not
performing as the Kyokai would like, then perhaps the Kyokai should examine
it's own policies, rather than dump on the Ozeki.  Along the same lines, I
don't see why the Kyokai has deemed to protect Ozeki from losing their rank
when they really want them to win at least 10.  It seems awfully
counterintuitive.  Finally, perhaps the Kyokai would find that sumo's
popularity wouldn't be so low if they weren't badmouthing their product all
the time.

> 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.

I like idea number 1.

> 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."

Well, I have a few thoughts on tachi-ai, as well.  I think strictly
enforcing the two hands rule is one of the leading causes of henka.  The
rikishi start spending more tachi-ai time focusing on their hands.  This
naturally brings their focus down, which brings their heads down, which
leads to low, easily henka'd tachi-ai's.  Rather than worry that both hands
are on the ground, I think the Kyokai should focus on achieving ah-un
breathing.  This will drastically cut down on matta, as well as henka.  I
think as long as one hand is touching the ground, and both rikishi's
breathing is synchronized, I don't think they need to be very strict on the
two-hand rules.  Also, the Kyokai should try bringing up more yotsu-zumo
rikishi, instead of looking for big guys and then teaching them nothing but
oshi-zumo.

Okay, okay, now that I've ranted for a bit, I should say some good things
about the Kyokai's attempts to revive sumo's popularity.  I have found a
great book on sumo, the 2001 Sumo Yearbook (Ozumo 2001 Nenkan).  It's full
color, and has in-depth entries on every rikishi who was in makuuchi in
2000.  There are special sections on the Yokozuna, the Ozeki, the Young
Turks (Mickey, Wakanosato, Takanowaka, Hayateumi, Tochinohana, Tochiazuma,
and Asashoryu), the Veterans (Terao, Akinoshima, and Takatoriki), and
finally the retirees (Wakanohana, Kotonishiki, Mitoizumi, Ganyu and
Ohinode).  There are many, many, many (did I say many) great pictures.  They
have some pictures that make Musashimaru look reflective and deep.
Unfortunately, most of Tochinohana's pictures are from one day's asageiko,
and he has a striking shiner on his left eye.  But in addition to the great
pictures, they include every rikishi's usual information, plus his hoshitori
from the last two years' bashos, a pie-graph and breakdown of the kimarite
he's used, and a line-graph of his position on the banzuke over the last two
years.  Finally, in the back, there are in-depth summaries of the 2000
bashos, and all sorts of neat tables and info.  All this for 1600 yen (about
16 USD).  I highly recommend it!  People in Japan responsible for prizes
this coming Bench Sumo basho, this would make a great one!  I've always
believed the Kyokai should make a serious attempt at marketing the rikishi
besides the Yokozuna/Ozeki, and this book is perfect along those lines.

Josh Reyer