Now, obviously there is a lot of disappointment for us fans, not least in the Rikishi involved, but also in all the cancellations upon an already fledgling sport. We’ve seen the ousting of one of the greatest Yokozuna’s in the modern era; attempts to oust the Yakuza for buying and reserving front row seats amongst other scandal; scandal over the baseball gambling resulting in the NHK pulling out, public apologies and dismissals and now further shame brought about by Yaocho. So I ask a question, is what we are seeing merely a purgery of the sport, to try and purify it from it’s ills? With Public Officials within or influential to the JSA, stamping an authority in an attempt to rid the sport of its underworld and ills.
I remember hearing a story here in the teaching community that relates similar to the response taken by the JSA with regards to all this Yaochoing around. Let me lay the story to you before I pass comment. A teacher had gone out for an enkai (celebratory party), possibly various nomikai’s (subsequent less formal party’s) after that and was penalized for drink driving. Not the night of, would you believe, but in the morning he still had a marginal amount of intoxicant within and so was, as they say, busted. From the law he received a driving ban, a hefty court fine and points on his license. From the School, he was dismissed, lost his pension and any bonuses due – essentially meaning that the profession he had built himself upon was taken away and leaving him unable to work as a teacher – perhaps even unable to find a decent salary in his home-ken, where he has a wife n kid to support. Whatever happened to that chap? No-one knows.
Some of you may feel that this is an overhanded response, considering that the traces of alcohol were found in the morning, on a random spot –n- check that so many of us could find ourselves in a similar situation. But the punishment didn’t stop there, so heavy was the shame, that all celebratory parties within that board of education and various schools for the remaining year were canceled as well as members receiving talks and instruction on how to be responsible.
So let`s analyse this a minute here. And ask some questions. Was this an over the top response? – yes. That punished the 99% of people who weren’t at fault and daren’t go out for a drink after work? Yes. Is such a response going to stop people drinking the night before driving in the morning? Probably not… But at least for a year or two. When compared to the response of the JSA to dismiss many wrestlers, cancel umpteen basho’s that equally punish the innocent fans, you can see some striking similarities. Is this response going to completely purge the sport of its ills? Probably not, but at least it will have hopefully been checked for a fair length of time and remain less influential.
Is this the end of Sumo? I doubt it. Sumo as a sport likes to boast is that not only does it stem from the warrior/samurai class but also that many of the rigorous practices and rituals stem from the religions prevalent in Japan. One of such religions is Taoism. One of the teachings in Taoism, is “to be like water”, strong in its ability to stay together, but flexible to be able to adapt to it’s environment. Another thing is that, one of the beauties of Japanese culture is the ability to keep modernity and its traditions running parallel. Even if people don’t support Sumo and watch it with a passion, I very much doubt that the people would want to see an aged tradition die. Indeed, it seems to me that if anything, forces are trying to purify this tradition so that it maintains the respect (if not the finance) it deserves. However, if the JSA and sumo is going to bounce back and regain the recognition that it once had, it needs to be like water.