Makushita Salaries –
Yea or Nay
Facilitated by Lon Howard
is the second economic power in the world, sumo is only fighting
against itself if the first objective is to preserve all aspects of the
old ways of life.
We are seeing that nowadays there are few good Japanese rikishi, basically because the old sumo way of life doesn’t stimulate them to join it. There are not many 16-year-old boys who will think very long about joining a heya when the prospects for the future are 14-16 hour days and no salary. If they’re lucky, maybe when they are 27-years-old, they can reach juryo rank and receive some money, but there is also the risk of losing this rank only two months later and having to work a lot of hours again without any money. And while he’s going through this, his fellow institute friends are working in an important company with a monthly salary, which lets them invite a girl to go to the cinema, or go to a bar with his friends after seeing a Giants game. Even boys joining the military receive a salary and are highly respected.
It also happens often that some years later, maybe at 35-years-old, this sumo wrestler retires, having reached sekitori rank only once (if he had luck) and almost without a yen in his pocket to subsist while looking for a job for which he has no qualifications. Can we really think these prospects are going to bring talented young boys and men to the world of sumo?
Time advances and it is necessary to go with the times. I believe that it would be acceptable that competing in the
As you know, the world of sumo is firmly bound by tradition and changes
to the status quo are few and infrequent. Many foreign sumo fans
feel this tentative and idealistic nature is actually binding sumo -
preventing it from making bold moves to invigorate Japan's national
sport, at a time when other sports such as baseball, soccer, and even
other forms of wrestling, become more popular. It’s no secret now
that fewer Japanese men are willing to spend their youths living in a
sumo beya. So far, the only rikishi to draw real salaries are those
known as 'sekitori', or those in the top two divisions - makuuchi and
juryo. Some feel that more strong young Japanese men would enter
sumo if salaries were paid to those in the lower ranks. Two of
our vocal readers will tackle this topic today. Here they are:
Eduardo de Paz lives in Spain and is known in sumo internet forums as Leonishiki. He was the first who opened a sumo website in Spanish and also a Spanish- language sumo mailing list. Later he began to publish a monthly sumo magazine (the last issue was number 58, and less than a year ago, he published the book “Sumo, The Fight of the Gods”, which is the first book ever written in Spanish about sumo. (Ed. note: reviewed by Mark Buckton here in SFM Issue 6) Without any doubt, Eduardo is a real sumo fanatic.
Sibley hails from the Rocky Mountain area of the United States known as
Colorado. He has been a dedicated follower of sumo since 1990 while he
was in the Navy and stationed in Misawa, Japan. Keri is better known on
the Sumo Mailing List as Hinerikeri and was the founder of CyberSumo,
one of the few internet-based sumo games that was available back in the
late 90’s. Keri’s other interests include inline skating, guitar and
LH: Eduardo, putting so many new people on the payroll poses many questions: How will it help? Where would the money come from? What are the risks? There are so many things to wonder about, we hardly know where to start, but in general terms, give us your thoughts on not only the why...but the how?
EP: If there is something that every sumo fan likes, that is, without any doubt, the preservation of all the traditions surrounding this sport. However, one thing is to preserve those traditions and another very different thing is to live in the past. Maybe 200 years ago sumo was an escape-way for a lot of youngsters who saw in this sport a way to subsist and, at the same time, give their families one less mouth to feed. But in the 21st century, in an industrial Japan