Should Honbasho Go
Overseas? – Yea or Nay
Facilitated by Carolyn Todd
|Ozumo, and even amateur sumo, owes riksihi from these nations.
It’s time for payback, time to show respect and take a full-on basho beyond the Sea of Japan – not eastwards over the Pacific where sumo has all but had its day – but to Mongolia or Europe – in the old world lies the future.
CG: The opening remarks certainly make for an intimidating shikiri-naoshi. When reading them, my mindset was transformed from ‘it will be fun to argue against conventional wisdom’ to ‘what in sumo’s name am I doing taking this side of the debate?’ My task, I guess, is simply to ensure that I do not suffer the debating equivalent of being smashed into the fifth row of a sumo audience.
Firstly, I agree with James’s central arguments: that non-Japanese competitors have enhanced sumo’s popularity, that attitudes to foreigners in sumo have changed immensely in the last 15 years, and that the Eastern Europeans and Mongolians deserve the chance to witness a proper, competitive basho in their homelands.
However, I think there are some practical issues which need addressing. Take for instance the question of logistics. At present, when the NSK travels abroad on tour, it seems only to bring makunouchi and juryo rikishi – who number less than 70. If you add in NSK officials and other invitees, I’d imagine that the average touring party numbers 200. However, if a whole basho were moved overseas, 700 wrestlers would need to be flown to the tournament venue, which – even discounting the extra oyakata
that honbasho in Japan are never sold out, except at weekends, and that
the NSK are trying to promote sumo overseas through jungyo, why don’t
they go the whole way and hold a full honbasho overseas each year,
changing the country and the Japanese venue to be dropped each year.?
For this Debate we’ve pitted our own Chris Gould in England, and James Hawkins, a Japanese resident, against each other. You’d think that Chris would be craving a honbasho in his backyard and James would want to jealously hold onto all six, but no. And what do you think? Should the NSK come to your town or would the gravitas of the honbasho be damaged by taking it on tour? Let us know at email@example.com
Chris Gould is a 23-year-old local government officer from the UK who has followed sumo since it appeared on British TV screens in 1988. His first live sumo experience came at the 1991 London basho, and was followed up with trips to the Kokugikan in 2003 and 2007. He also attended the 2006 US Sumo Open, and hopes to attend both amateur and professional sumo events more often now that he finally earns a wage.
James Hawkins is a born and bred Lancastrian, a proud wearer of the red rose at Lancs cricket games and for his sins a lifelong follower of Manchester City. He
been in Japan for 5 years now, having first visited his friend (an
SFMer of much regard) here back in 1999 for a fortnight or so.
Sumo-wise he has been following the big men since about mid-2003 and is a regular attendee at honbasho, being particularly impressed with the will to try and win well rather than the desire to win at all costs.
JH: When I was asked to take part in a debate on whether honbasho should be held overseas once a year I couldn’t believe my luck. When I was also given the opportunity to start the debate I was amazed how easy it was, how little there was to debate considering that not taking a honbasho overseas in the future would be borderline criminal seeing as the last 5 years (at least) and 30-ish basho has proven that without non-Japanese competitors, sumo would be facing the road to extinction.
Admittedly, the USA paved the way with Konishiki, Akebono and Musashimaru – and earlier Takamiyama, but the American Jidai, as my Japanese neighbors have taught me, is dead and buried.
Current sumo belongs to the Eastern Europeans to some extent, and the Mongolians to a far greater extent, and it would be an insult to ignore the debt