Sumo Wrestling ‘Shrinking’ In Popularity In Japan

The traditional sport of sumo wrestling may be dying out in Japan for lack of interest in part because it’s no longer considered “cool.”

Only 56 trainees applied to become professional sumo wrestlers in 2012, the lowest number in over 50 years.

According to Reuters, there are various explanations for sumo’s decline in Japan:

“With a history spanning centuries, sumo once graced the Imperial courts of Japan and wrestlers were held in the highest regard. Sponsors lavished gifts on the hulking giants and to join the ranks of the sumo was considered a worthy occupation.

“Those days are long gone, however.

“Tarnished by scandals involving drug use, bout-fixing, violence and alleged links to Japanese organized crime, sumo struggles to fill stadiums and attract new fans.”

Sumo apparently lacks the coolness factor too to attract a new generation of fans:

“Even without the scandals, sumo’s popularity has been eaten away by ‘cooler’ sports. Sumo’s Spartan lifestyle and warrior code appears lost on a modern Japan obsessed with glitz and celebrity.

“While baseball continues to rule the roost, there is a growing challenge from soccer, whose ‘cool factor’ has rocketed since the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, stealing still further fans.”

Sumo’s grand champion (i.e., yokozuna) Harumafuji also sugests that perhaps would-be apprentices are turned off by the grueling sumo training: “Sumo is a strict sport. Of course there are people who feel there is no need to put themselves through such hardship in an age of convenience.”

[Top image credit: Eckhard Pecher]

Watch a report from the Financial Times about the decline of sumo wrestling in Japan:

Here is Next Media Animation’s take on the state of sumo wrestling: