A Glance at the world of Yakuza and Sumo Wrestling

Recently, the sports world of Sumo has been hit by some big scandals involving certain wrestlers and the Yakuza over gambling, free premier tickets1 and so on, but as this article by the Asahi Shinbun shows, the history between the two is long and complicated and only recently has Sumo wrestling really taken a hard stance to clean up its image.

A sumo ring, or dohyo on Wikipedia

Coincidentally, I had a conversation with a Japanese fellow (friend of a friend, whose kids know my little kids) about this subject and he just brushed it off. In Japan, it’s well known that historically Yakuza, in their more legitimate roles in society, have functioned as body-guards and promoters of Sumo events, and due to the close relationship, its assumed then that they may also provide less-legitimate services to Sumo wrestlers as needed. But based on the articles above, I believe the extent of this relationship isn’t fully understood since it’s a somewhat closed society.

In yet another article published on June 28th, you can see that the Japan Sumo Association is really starting to crack down on this relationship and enforce more clean, professional sports. The first step in stopping criminal or illegitimate behavior, I believe, is shedding light on it first, and I am glad to see that the JSA and the media are accomplishing just that. Nothing enforces correct behavior like a little public shame, I think. ;-p

The Japanese fellow I talked to shrugged off the issue, but having an amateur curiousity toward Sumo, I think it’s in the interest of the sport’s reputation to clean up its image so that people outside of Japan develop further appreciation and respect.

P.S. While you’re reading the Japan Sumo Association website, check out their awesome Sumo exercise page. Being a big guy myself (or でぶ, “debu” as my wife teases me in Japanese), I think these exercises might just fit the bill! :D

1 The premier seating tickets are supposed to be allocated through a certain process, but apparently some people have circumvented the process as a special “favor” to yakuza clients or possibly others.

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