So it appears 3 rikishi have come clean and admitted to yaocho (bout fixing). Chiyohakuho (who has been involved in pretty much every scandal in recent memory), Takenawa-Oyakata (former Kasguanishiki) and sandanme Enatsukasa. What’s worse two TV networks have refused to broadcast the March Tournament, and NHK has said they are thinking about doing the same if this scandal goes any further, on top of that Nagatanien, a sponsor who provides more than 200 prize envelopes ber basho is considering walking sideways.
The next logical question is: What does this mean for sumo. Right now, I just don’t know. These guys were told to clean things up (given, this happened last May, before the baseball gambling scandal split open, but no fan of sumo can tell me with a straight face that there has been no yaocho since Nagoya). The JSA has appointed a committee of non-affiliated parties to investigate. The the 3 who admitted yaocho amongst the 12 indicted parties are being seen as just the “tip of the iceberg.”
Really guys, lets think about this. You have a bunch of guys (many of whom have, at best, a middle school education, some with high school, and few with college education) doing this for a living. Their wages are shit until they reach the highest ranks and their lifestyle matches the pay. On top of that public interest in what they are doing in waning. Heyas are getting smaller and are having to fold into others (most recently Kiriyama-beya, home to Homasho, folded into Asahiyama) because they can’t afford to stay open. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this entire system is a perfect fit for corruption and manipulation.
For christ’s sake, the vast amount of viewers don’t tune in for anything but makuuchi, and even then the broadcast of the lower ranks is only availble to those with basic satellite. Bout fixing is obvious to the veteran sumo watcher even in the top ranks. The only reason no-one has said anything yet is because the only people who have seen this stuff happen to like sumo and want to continue to watch it, so they don’t say shit.
Realistically, I don’t know what”s going to happen. However, the best thing for the JSA to do is boot the involved parties at once to placate NHK, apologize profusely , shut the fuck up, and pray to God and Burt Reynolds that nothing else comes up before March. (Hanaregoma is probably gonna be gone soon as well.)
OK, 2 guys from Makuuchi will bite it, and 5 guys from Juryo will do the same. It blows, but thus is life. If the JSA hesitates here no one is going to be happy. Not the public, not the yakuza, not the fans, not the wrestlers, not the stable master, and especially not the JSA. JSA, it’s time to sack-up and just do what you said you were going to do after the gambling bullshit. Because seriously, we all know if this is pried into any further, more rikishi will fall and there WILL be yakuza implication. I hate to be they guy that says “cover this up immediately before anything else goes wrong, and we’ll pretend that we’ll deal with it later, and hope everyone forgets”, perhaps it’s a sign I’ve been in Japan too long and am starting to assimilate. But I love sumo, and I’d hate to see it go.
However, even if the JSA does this, we all know that something will come up again after a few basho. At the all hands meeting in September once this has all been put to bed, and everyone is lulled back into a false sense of security, Peter Falk wanders in as if by accident, slapping his palm to his forehead, clumsily takes his cigar out of his mouth and says “Oh, Mr. Hanaregoma, just one more thing…” two weeks later next to every wrestler is dismissed and the sport is dead.