In March of 2017, Kisenosato, the first Japanese-born sumo wrestler to be promoted to the top rank of yokozuna in almost 20 years, came from behind to win the Spring Tournament in dramatic fashion, setting off celebrations throughout the country. Over the past two decades, Mongolian wrestlers had dominated Japan’s “national sport,” as scandal, the hardships of life in a sumo stable, and the attraction of “cooler” sports like baseball and soccer steadily reduced the number of young Japanese athletes choosing to enter sumo’s professional ranks. Did Kisenosato’s performance, reforms carried out by the sport’s governing body, and the emergence of several promising young Japanese wrestlers signal a comeback for sumo and a return to sold-out arenas for the six annual tournaments?
Sumo Meets Globalization introduces readers to the history and intricacies of sumo, including the roles that foreigners have played in keeping the sport alive as its popularity declines among younger Japanese. In embracing non-Japanese wrestlers and fans, sumo may offer a model for the Japanese nation, which continues to tightly restrict immigration despite having a rapidly shrinking and aging population.
Topics: Sumo wrestling, Sport, Traditional culture, Internationalization