Earlier this month the Sumo Association made public its intent to apply for public interest incorporated foundation status, sending shockwaves through the layers of adipose tissue that cling to rikishi, and also the sumo world. On the 17th, the JSA convened a Public Interest Foundation Status Reform Policy Committee. Although nothing solid has come out of this committee, so far the biggest changes that have been proposed have had to deal with the so called “Toshiyori Shares.” For those not in the know, the JSA currently operates by allowing only select former rikishi to buy a share in the JSA. What was at stake in the most recent meeting was whether or not new toshiyori would have to pay “Merit Bonus Money” when they obtain their share. Two opinions registered at the meeting were that new toshiyori should have to pay up to 30,000,000 yen, or that they should not be required to pay anything at all. If the JSA does decide to make the shares simply scraps of paper, then that effectively eliminates a large portion of the current toshiyori’s financial assets. If they do decide take this step you can be sure that we will see a mad rush of Oyakata trying to dump their shares for dirt cheap before they become totally worthless. The next meeting of this committee will be held on May 2nd, so hopefully we can find out more then.
Because of these proposed changes and other reasons, Hanakago Oyakata, the former sekiwake Daijuyama, has announced that he will close down his stable at the end of May, and the existing 11 rikishi will be folded into the Minezaki stable. The Hanakago stable had a proud history of producing former Yokozuna like Wakanohana and Wajima, but ended up folding in 1985 after then-Oyakata Wajima was forced out of the JSA after he put up his Oyakata shares as collateral for his chanko-nabe joint. (a big no-no)
In 1992, Daijuyama, hoping to have better financial luck than his predecessor, re-established the stable but ultimately went through the same kind of difficulties. The heya’s biggest problem had to be its utter lack of riskishi in the higher ranks. In the renewed stable’s entire history it has only managed to produce one rikishi: the Mongolian Koryu. Koryu ended up participating in a whopping total of 8 makuuchi tournaments and reached the dizzying heights of Makuuchi 11 before being forced to retire after last year’s yaocho scandal. Because his stable has no high-ranked wrestlers his income was essentially nil. And with the new rules soon to possibly make his multi-million-yen share worth less than the paper it’s printed on, the oyakata decided it was time to call it quits. Personally I feel sorry for his current wrestlers as their new home, the Minezaki stable, has not even produced 1 upper-division wreslter in its entire history and currently only has 6 rikishi.