BIG Trouble: Sumo Outsources for Survival
Watch a sumo match or two these days and you might be surprised to see foreign wrestlers mixing it up with Japan's best on the hard-packed clay "dohjo" (ring). Though they style their hair in the traditional manner, wear mawashi (those diaper-things, only don't call it a diaper... oops!), even speak Japanese when interviewed by TV commentators, they're as "gaijin" as the day is long. (Sumo Beatles image via Seth Wenig, Reuters)
What's more, this flood of foreign fatties is gaining strength to the point that the four highest ranks in the upcoming 2007 Nagoya tournament will, for the first time, feature more foreign wrestlers than Japanese. Around 60 foreign-born "rikishi" are actively competing today and sumo's two current Grand Champions, or Yokozuna, are both from Mongolia.
How did this turn of events ever come to pass? Plain and simple, the laws of supply and demand are making themselves felt, and since the supply of new Japanese sumo wrestlers is not meeting the demand, the sport must look elsewhere. Things have definitely reached a low point: the Japan Sumo Association had to cancel the recruitment tests scheduled for July 2nd because, well, nobody showed up!
As I watch tournament after tournament on NHK while still not being able to figure out how to get the blasted Second Audio Program to work (I guess the real "SAP" is yours truly), I've conjured up my own color commentary of the big - literally - players in the sumo world. Here's my rundown on sumo's top foreign fighters:
Hakurozan - This Russian wrestler's ring name translates to "White Russian Mountain"... and if you see him, you'll know why. I call him "Boris Badanov" because, well, why not? Can you say "Moose and Squirrel"? I knew you could! (image via Sumo Fan Magazine )
Roho - The top Russian sumo-san, his ring name translates to "Russian Phoenix". Roho's distinguishing feature is his spooky resemblance to actor Ethan Suplee from "My Name is Earl". Separated at birth? "My Name is Roho"? Stay tuned!