Sumo Struggling To Recruit Young Trainees As Sport Tries To Rebuild Reputation
A dearth of new recruits "is thinning the ranks of sumo wrestlers, threatening the future of the celebrated but scandal-plagued ancient Japanese sport," according to Mure Dickie of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The Japan Sumo Association said that "only 56 hefty young trainees" have applied to join sumo stables this year, which is "far too few to make up for the 115 wrestlers who left the sports last year." The "declining enthusiasm for the tough but potentially glamorous life of a sumo wrestler" comes as Japan’s national sport "struggles to rebuild a reputation battered by revelations of bout-fixing, trainee bullying and underworld links." Writer Shoko Sato said that the lack of new trainees "reflected the sport's struggle to maintain popularity among young Japanese." Sato said, "Soccer and the Major League [baseball] have greater appeal for young people now, while sumo has become a sport watched by grannies and granddads." The recruitment problem "is just one of a litany of woes suffered by sumo in recent years." Claims the sport embodies traditional values of discipline, self-control and moral rectitude "have been tarnished by the death during a hazing of a young trainee in '07 and episodes of illegal gambling and dope-smoking among wrestlers." Video Research revealed that the dramatic finale of the fall competition was watched in 18% of households -- "far fewer than the 27% who tuned in for the final day of the tournament in '09," the last time sumo made it into the annual TV top 20 (FINANCIAL TIMES, 11/2).