Sumo panel submits recommendations to JSA

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku, left, receives the conclusions of an expert panel on sumo in Tokyo on Monday.

An expert panel convened to discuss the future of sumo submitted its conclusions to the Japan Sumo Association on Monday.

Chaired by University of Tokyo professor emeritus Masayuki Yamauchi, the expert committee on the succession and development of sumo held its final meeting on Monday at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo.

The panel’s conclusions, which were handed to JSA chairman Hakkaku, stated that “The classical traditions, spirit, and techniques of sumo, which originated in Shinto rituals, should be regarded as principles that should be protected, handed down and developed.”

The panel proposed reviewing the ichidai-toshiyori status, under which outstanding yokozuna are granted the right to retain their ring names after retirement and to serve as stablemasters under the name.

Only three yokozuna have received the honor. The first was yokozuna Taiho in 1969, followed by Kitanoumi and Takanohana. Yokozuna Chiyonofuji declined the honor.

In general, the name of a stablemaster is handed down from stablemaster elders to their disciples, upon approval from the JSA.

Citing traditional performing arts such as kabuki as an example, the expert panel stated that “The value of the name [of stablemaster] increases when it is handed down from generation to generation.”

The fact that a stablemaster name cannot be handed down to a disciple under ichidai-toshiyori is not in line with tradition, according to the panel. The report stated that as there is no specific provision for the measure in the association’s articles of incorporation, there was “no basis to recognize the ichidai-toshiyori status.”

JSA Chairman Hakkaku, former yokozuna Hokutoumi, said: “We will discuss the recommendations at a board meeting.”

The expert panel was established in 2019 in the wake of scandals including assault allegations involving former yokozuna Harumafuji.

The report stated the need to respect the Governance Code for National Sport Federation Members adopted by the Japan Sports Agency, and advised the appointment of women as outside directors.

The panel also recommended the creation of a committee to reaffirm the traditions to be preserved.