…could be. The TV news yesterday was full of revelations about what police investigating illegal gambling had found on sumo wrestlers cell phone records. Very incriminating stuff suggesting bout-fixing was rife. This comes after a series of scandals over the last couple of years – dope-smoking Russians, the Bad Boy Asashoryu from Mongolia, a baseball betting ring and a young trainee beaten to death – very serious and after the baseball thing last year NHK dropped their live broadcast for a season. This, however, could be the worst yet, in terms of the future of this quintessentially Japanese “sport”.
Is it a sport or a rite? It takes place under an awning like a shrine, and starts and finishes with a lot of ceremony indicating its probable origins. Whatever, these days it still has a lot of fans who expect not to know the outcome of a bout until it’s over, and hold their breath to see who’ll end up the champion this time. Will it be Hakoho yet again? That could be all over. Now it looks as if a lot of results could well have been arranged in advance, wht’s the point of watching? The TV companies will probably agree, and the Ministry of Culture might well cancel sumo’s status as a public body with tax exemptions…
What’s more, there was a lot of money moving around behind the scenes here: so who stood to gain from knowing the sumo results in advance? Presumably betting was going on, with unsuspecting punters being taken for a ride by yakuza, probably. It all looks a horrible mess, and really could be the end of the sport, at least for a while till they get things straightened out, if ever.
Yesterday was also Setsubun. “Out, demons out!”