Sumo scandal

Barry Bonds, move over. The world of sports has a new bad boy, this time hailing from Japan, via Mongolia. The current superstar of Japan's national sport sumo, Asahoryu, already facing a two tournament suspension, a pay cut, and reportedly under investigation for tax evasion, has left Japan for his native Mongolia to undergo treatment for "stress." Prior to the scandal erupting, he had won 21 tournaments, a major feat. So seriously do the Japanese take this that the Prime Minister commented on it with concern:
"I hope Asashoryu can concentrate on his treatment back home and stage a speedy recovery."
So huge is the story in Japan that dozens of reporters followed him to the airport, with one TV network even showing the menu served on his flight to Mongolia (sumo wrestlers eat a special high calorie diet famous for a dish called chanko-nabe).

The offense for which he was suspended was appearing in a charity match in Mongolia while claiming to be unable to appear in a scheduled tournament in Japan. He had previously been under criticism for pulling on the hair topknot his opponent during a match, a serious offense comparable to a boxer biting an opponent's ear.

Sumo is so traditional and embedded in the nation's psyche that it makes baseball look like Rollerball. Sumo wrestlers wear their hair long, oiled and tied into a topknot. The entire sport is wrapped in layers of tradition, with a Shinto priest acting as referee, and each match begins with ritual purification of the ring by the combatants tossing salt on it. Grand champions (Yokozuna - the highest rank occupied by Asahoryu) are expected to conduct themselves humbly and modestly, dressing in traditional kimono when in public. Wrestlers join and work their way up a stable, as they are called in English, where they are trained, and for which they work when they begin to generate income. They are assigned a one word Japanese name, typically with a poetic overtone, which becomes their new identity.

Despite the well-known contention that the Japanese are insular and racist, Sumo has welcomed foreign athletes on the condition that they work within the sport's traditional constraints on behavior. Beginning with the first foreign wrestlers to join stables and come up through the ranks to in the 1960s, many of these overseas athletes have conscientiously acted accordingly and won the hearts of the Japanese public.

Sumo is a sport based on sacrifice of self. Not only do the athletes risk serious injury during their intense but brief bouts, the cumulative result of their diet, weight, and injuries leads to a typically short life span. Given the importance of sheer size and weight in the sport, ethnicities other than the typically small Japanese have prospered as athletes. Hawaiians, Samoans, and now Mongolians are notable. The only other current Yokozuna, Kyokushuzan, is also Mongolian.

Hat tip: Jeff W.
Barry Bonds, move over. The world of sports has a new bad boy, this time hailing from Japan, via Mongolia. The current superstar of Japan's national sport sumo, Asahoryu, already facing a two tournament suspension, a pay cut, and reportedly under investigation for tax evasion, has left Japan for his native Mongolia to undergo treatment for "stress." Prior to the scandal erupting, he had won 21 tournaments, a major feat. So seriously do the Japanese take this that the Prime Minister commented on it with concern:
"I hope Asashoryu can concentrate on his treatment back home and stage a speedy recovery."
So huge is the story in Japan that dozens of reporters followed him to the airport, with one TV network even showing the menu served on his flight to Mongolia (sumo wrestlers eat a special high calorie diet famous for a dish called chanko-nabe).

The offense for which he was suspended was appearing in a charity match in Mongolia while claiming to be unable to appear in a scheduled tournament in Japan. He had previously been under criticism for pulling on the hair topknot his opponent during a match, a serious offense comparable to a boxer biting an opponent's ear.

Sumo is so traditional and embedded in the nation's psyche that it makes baseball look like Rollerball. Sumo wrestlers wear their hair long, oiled and tied into a topknot. The entire sport is wrapped in layers of tradition, with a Shinto priest acting as referee, and each match begins with ritual purification of the ring by the combatants tossing salt on it. Grand champions (Yokozuna - the highest rank occupied by Asahoryu) are expected to conduct themselves humbly and modestly, dressing in traditional kimono when in public. Wrestlers join and work their way up a stable, as they are called in English, where they are trained, and for which they work when they begin to generate income. They are assigned a one word Japanese name, typically with a poetic overtone, which becomes their new identity.

Despite the well-known contention that the Japanese are insular and racist, Sumo has welcomed foreign athletes on the condition that they work within the sport's traditional constraints on behavior. Beginning with the first foreign wrestlers to join stables and come up through the ranks to in the 1960s, many of these overseas athletes have conscientiously acted accordingly and won the hearts of the Japanese public.

Sumo is a sport based on sacrifice of self. Not only do the athletes risk serious injury during their intense but brief bouts, the cumulative result of their diet, weight, and injuries leads to a typically short life span. Given the importance of sheer size and weight in the sport, ethnicities other than the typically small Japanese have prospered as athletes. Hawaiians, Samoans, and now Mongolians are notable. The only other current Yokozuna, Kyokushuzan, is also Mongolian.

Hat tip: Jeff W.