In March of 2009, the Japan Sumo Association won a lawsuit
against Kodansha, a large Japanese publishing house. Kodansha had alleged that match fixing was rampant in Sumo, even at the highest levels. However, in the last week, police have discovered text messages
between wrestlers showing proof of fixing, including negotiation over compensation.
Rumors of match fixing
, or 八百長
(yaocho) have been around for years. In 2000, former wrestler Keisuke Itai
came forward with allegations of yaocho
, naming 20 active wrestlers, including then yokozuna (grand champion) Akebono
Sumo was still trying to recover from its previous scandal last summer. Dozens of wrestlers were involved in a massive gambling scandal
(during which, ozeki, or champion, Kotomitsuki
was fired from sumo
for his part in gambling on baseball games). Public sentiment against sumo plummeted to the point where, for the first time since 1957 (when live broadcast of sumo began) when NHK refused to show
the summer tournament in Nagoya.
The new scandal comes at the worst possible time. Already, several charity events and appearances have been called off
, and leading newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun is evidently reporting the spring tournament in Osaka will be cancelled
as well. Furthermore, the sport may lose its status
as a "public interest corporation" which would deprive the sport of subsidies and tax breaks, possibly leading the forfeiture of the Kokugikan
, the main arena in Tokyo for sumo tournaments.
At the moment, the scandal is centered around wrestlers mainly in the lower divisions of sumo, but include several former upper division wrestlers including Chiyohakuho
, who has offered to resign (his resignation was not accepted), Yamamotoyama, and sumo elder Takenawa. Many questions
have come up, including whether or not Kodansha will get their money back.
A personal favorite of mine, Takamisakari, known for his spirited routine before bouts, is reported to have said "What idiot did it?"