Troubling Racism and Xenophobia in Sumo Reforms

Steve

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I tried to post this before and the thread was locked. This isn't political, and I'm unaware of any rules if violated so I'm trying again. I asked a moderator and was ignored so I guess I'll just encourage folks to not, I don't know, offend the mods. :)

I believe some others watch sumo and are interested in the sport. What do you think of the proposed reforms and of what is discussed in this video? I think they're doing Hakuho wrong.

[Media]
 

dvcochran

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I tried to post this before and the thread was locked. This isn't political, and I'm unaware of any rules if violated so I'm trying again. I asked a moderator and was ignored so I guess I'll just encourage folks to not, I don't know, offend the mods. :)

I believe some others watch sumo and are interested in the sport. What do you think of the proposed reforms and of what is discussed in this video? I think they're doing Hakuho wrong.

[Media]
I have no issue with the premise but yea, the reporter wording was not tactful at all. If Sumo wants to keep it's purity I have no problem with that. It is their right.
Of course this could go either way; either eroding the sport or increasing it's popularity and National heritage.
 

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I've heard similar sentiments expressed about gridiron football. Although it's never going to happen, many Americans and Canadians feel strongly against it ever moving beyond North American shores to become an international sport.

Is this racist and/or xenophobic? I don't think so. I think it has more to do with certain nationalities or cultures trying to maintain ownership over a particular sport.
 
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Steve

Steve

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I've heard similar sentiments expressed about gridiron football. Although it's never going to happen, many Americans and Canadians feel strongly against it ever moving beyond North American shores to become an international sport.

Is this racist and/or xenophobic? I don't think so. I think it has more to do with certain nationalities or cultures trying to maintain ownership over a particular sport.

I think there's a point where maintaining the culture crosses a line. For example, you bring up American Football. The "purity" of the sport is in the rules and the traditions that folks have. But even there, the traditions are very different from place to place. So, tailgating may occur, and I'd be sorry to see that tradition fall by the wayside. But folks tailgate in very different ways in Seattle than they do in Vegas. So, if Asian fans came to a football game and wanted to tailgate, but do it differently, is that undermining the cultural integrity of the sport?

Or another example, maybe more to the point of the concerns. In American football, there is no arbitrary limit on who can train and work their way up to compete in the NFL. In Japan, there is a limit that one "foreigner" can train in a stable at a time. That's it. I've never heard a concern in an American sport, whether it's baseball, football, basketball or any other, that there are too many foreigners playing at the highest level of the sport. But that's exactly the concern in Japan with Sumo.

So, the real question here is, are Mongolians like Hakuho, arguably the greatest of all time, bad for Sumo? Is it okay for the all japanese governing board to deny Hakuho the opportunity to ever train his own stable of rikishi, even though he's lived in Japan since he was (IIRC) 14, and is now a Japanese citizen? I don't think those things are good for the sport, and they really seem to be actually starving the sport of top talent in an effort to keep it ethnically pure.

In the video, the guy brings up a couple of directions of how the sport can progress, kendo or judo.
 

Xue Sheng

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I think the problem last time may have been me and my additional examples of Japanese culture and immigration, although factual and told to me by Japanese nationals and those americans the lived there....therefore I will just read and not contribute
 
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Steve

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I think the problem last time may have been me and my additional examples of Japanese culture and immigration, although factual and told to me by Japanese nationals and those americans the lived there....therefore I will just read and not contribute
well, maybe or maybe not. I don't see this as a political issue, unless you consider the human condition and issues that deal with race, culture, and identity as being inherently political (which I don't). We are going through some of the same things here in America, and I think concerns about loss of culture and cultural identity are pretty common all over the world.

But in this particular example, Sumo is at a crossroads. There is international interest in the sport, and some of the top competitors (including the GOAT) are not ethnically Japanese. It appears that adopting the culture, the language, the lifestyle, and even acquiring Japanese citizenship, they are viewed as foreign and not allowed to continue in the sport once retired from competition. This would be like if in America, we only allow one foreigner to be coached in a baseball team's system at a time (to include the Minor League Baseball clubs at AAA, AA, High-A, A, and Rookie levels). And only allow people who are ethnically (i.e., not naturalized) citizens to coach. Seems pretty severe to me.
 

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This kinda reminds me of the situation baseball was in 15 -20 years ago. The traditional "unwritten" rules like you can't "look at a pitcher after a Home Run" You have to throw at the next batter if you're shown up, you can't wear your hat crooked, don't get excited when you have a good hit, Blah Blah Blah. Eventually, the rules started killing baseball for the younger generation and the number of kids playing in the US started declining and MLB started opening academies in Latin America. Around here we have a traditional state championship High School baseball program yet now we cant even find enough kids to start a little league program kids just dont want to play anymore.
I think eventually the same will happen to Sumo. If you keep restricting the people that can play either through actual rules like Sumo or "unwritten rules" and traditions the sport will eventually start to die off. Eventually, you either need to change the rules and invite others to join or it ends. For now, as long as they can still find enough Japanese to do sumo then it will be fine but eventually, they will start to run out of Japanese that are interested and they will have no choice but to change
 

dvcochran

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I think there's a point where maintaining the culture crosses a line. For example, you bring up American Football. The "purity" of the sport is in the rules and the traditions that folks have. But even there, the traditions are very different from place to place. So, tailgating may occur, and I'd be sorry to see that tradition fall by the wayside. But folks tailgate in very different ways in Seattle than they do in Vegas. So, if Asian fans came to a football game and wanted to tailgate, but do it differently, is that undermining the cultural integrity of the sport?

Or another example, maybe more to the point of the concerns. In American football, there is no arbitrary limit on who can train and work their way up to compete in the NFL. In Japan, there is a limit that one "foreigner" can train in a stable at a time. That's it. I've never heard a concern in an American sport, whether it's baseball, football, basketball or any other, that there are too many foreigners playing at the highest level of the sport. But that's exactly the concern in Japan with Sumo.

So, the real question here is, are Mongolians like Hakuho, arguably the greatest of all time, bad for Sumo? Is it okay for the all japanese governing board to deny Hakuho the opportunity to ever train his own stable of rikishi, even though he's lived in Japan since he was (IIRC) 14, and is now a Japanese citizen? I don't think those things are good for the sport, and they really seem to be actually starving the sport of top talent in an effort to keep it ethnically pure.

In the video, the guy brings up a couple of directions of how the sport can progress, kendo or judo.
Fully agree. But I cannot think of an instance when a player of foreign origin tried to bring their baggage or be very overt about cultural differences in football. It is a team sport and requires a team mindset. Just do your job.
A good example is Kapernick. An average quarterback who was absolutely toxic in the locker room. That people wonder why he is no longer in the league is beyond me. I think the majority of these people just wanted to make it a race thing.
The Sumo Guy does seem to be atypical to the culture and a very strong personality.
 

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Or another example, maybe more to the point of the concerns. In American football, there is no arbitrary limit on who can train and work their way up to compete in the NFL. In Japan, there is a limit that one "foreigner" can train in a stable at a time. That's it. I've never heard a concern in an American sport, whether it's baseball, football, basketball or any other, that there are too many foreigners playing at the highest level of the sport. But that's exactly the concern in Japan with Sumo.
I have heard complaints about Dominicans taking over MLB and a large percentage of the NHL being from Scandinavia and Slavic countries, though I'm not sure if any of that is a discussion that has gone mainstream enough to be talked about in the media.
 
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I have heard complaints about Dominicans taking over MLB and a large percentage of the NHL being from Scandinavia and Slavic countries, though I'm not sure if any of that is a discussion that has gone mainstream enough to be talked about in the media.
Okay, sure. So, imagine if the NHL changed the rules to say that only one non-North American player could be signed to a franchise at a time, including the junior and major junior leagues. Only one foreigner, so if they get one player from Denmark on the Seattle Thunderbirds, the Seattle Kraken could not have anyone from outside of Canada and the USA.

Honestly, if they're looking at reforming Sumo, worrying less about foreign rikishi pumping their fists or being unshaven, and more into caring for the athletes would be a good place to start.

 

dvcochran

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Okay, sure. So, imagine if the NHL changed the rules to say that only one non-North American player could be signed to a franchise at a time, including the junior and major junior leagues. Only one foreigner, so if they get one player from Denmark on the Seattle Thunderbirds, the Seattle Kraken could not have anyone from outside of Canada and the USA.

Honestly, if they're looking at reforming Sumo, worrying less about foreign rikishi pumping their fists or being unshaven, and more into caring for the athletes would be a good place to start.

But do you feel they are completely different topics about the same sport?
The death is tragic and speaks to the need for ancillary tools (EMS) that are needed in Sumo, just like every other contact sport.
The other points about hygiene and personality/culture are harder to assess. IMHO
 

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I don't know.

Using a football reference I find for example the Highland rugby haka, super cringy.


Even to an extreme point the American Indian caricatures in sport.?

So if sumo was some sort of mainstream sport I would have more issue. As a cultural sport I can see why the want to keep a lid on that sort of nonsense.

And where the line is drawn I have no idea.
 
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I don't know.

Using a football reference I find for example the Highland rugby haka, super cringy.


Even to an extreme point the American Indian caricatures in sport.?

So if sumo was some sort of mainstream sport I would have more issue. As a cultural sport I can see why the want to keep a lid on that sort of nonsense.

And where the line is drawn I have no idea.
I don't think I understand what you're saying. What about the haka thing do you think is cringy? I don't know enough about that to really understand one way or the other.

As for the native american representation in sport, that's been a deal here for a long time (mostly partisan). I, for one, am glad to see things like the Washington State ban on Native American school mascots. While not every school or district will be required to change their names or mascots, most will, and the rest will work with the tribe.


Regarding Sumo as a cultural sport, you make a good point. Is it racist to insist that only Japanese (and a very, very small number of 'foreigners') be allowed to participate? Or is it actively preventing the possibility of cultural appropriation? For the sake of discussion, it's hard to tell the difference, sometimes. How is a white dude in Australia, England, or the USA dressed in traditional martial arts uniforms, who is teaching a bunch of other white dudes a "koryu art" different from other forms of cultural appropriation?
 

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Regarding Sumo as a cultural sport, you make a good point. Is it racist to insist that only Japanese (and a very, very small number of 'foreigners') be allowed to participate? Or is it actively preventing the possibility of cultural appropriation?
It might be relevant to note that international amateur Sumo (under the umbrella of the International Sumo Federation, headquartered in Japan), was started and continues to be promoted by the Japanese. There are 87 national Sumo organizations under the ISF umbrella and the ISF is working towards getting Sumo accepted as an Olympic sport. It's only professional Sumo, as run by the Japan Sumo Association, which limits the numbers of non-Japanese allowed into the sport.
 
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It might be relevant to note that international amateur Sumo (under the umbrella of the International Sumo Federation, headquartered in Japan), was started and continues to be promoted by the Japanese. There are 87 national Sumo organizations under the ISF umbrella and the ISF is working towards getting Sumo accepted as an Olympic sport. It's only professional Sumo, as run by the Japan Sumo Association, which limits the numbers of non-Japanese allowed into the sport.
Good point, though it opens up some additional questions.
 

isshinryuronin

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This is a difficult subject to rationally discuss the pros and cons, as it is related to cultural chauvinism, an emotionally charged issue. I am of conflicted opinion. The video above is similar to the South Pacific Islander ritual war dance, meant to intimidate the opponent with a show of unity and strength and perhaps avoiding actual physical combat. Similar displays are seen throughout the animal world to avoid intraspecies violence. Some of the ritual in sumo is based on this, much on religious (Shinto, a very Japanese) tradition. Hard for outsiders to identify with Shinto.

While other cultures may appropriate these kind of rituals on a physical level, chances are they are not a part of their cultural soul and do not have the personal meaning they have to the native culture. Imagine your country's national flag taken over by another country and used there for some mundane purpose. If you're British, how would you feel about the Palace Guards bear fur hats adopted by McDonald's as part of their uniform? Maybe some wouldn't care, but others would feel an insult.

How would an Apache or Navajo feel if a person of European descent joined in one of their cultural spirit dances? I think there would need to be a process before they felt comfortable with it. Personally, I have respect for most cultural traditions.

It is practically impossible for a non-Japanese to be accepted as Japanese (legally and socially) even if born there. It is very insular. Never colonized, little immigration, homogenous language and race, and a very long history of social norms and traditions, it is a very protective country. One can argue this is a source of national pride and strength of their culture (with many admirable qualities, IMO), and can perhaps said to be racist as well (though I think the racism is based on anybody being non-Japanese, rather than just color) It is much different than the USA which was built from a number of immigrant origins and customs. This too, is a source of strength, as well as a source of problems.

After these considerations, I am still of mixed feelings on the general subject. Regarding sumo, specifically, I think if outsiders are skillful and fully respect the traditions of the sport (which is, or at least, used to be seen as more than mere sport to the Japanese) they should be allowed to compete and be treated on an equal basis within the sumo world. They should not expect to be easily or quickly considered "family" however. Such is the reality.
 

dvcochran

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I don't know.

Using a football reference I find for example the Highland rugby haka, super cringy.


Even to an extreme point the American Indian caricatures in sport.?

So if sumo was some sort of mainstream sport I would have more issue. As a cultural sport I can see why the want to keep a lid on that sort of nonsense.

And where the line is drawn I have no idea.
Our son played a little rec league rugby at WKU. There were some teams that did a very similar field entry. A rugby thing maybe?
 

dvcochran

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It might be relevant to note that international amateur Sumo (under the umbrella of the International Sumo Federation, headquartered in Japan), was started and continues to be promoted by the Japanese. There are 87 national Sumo organizations under the ISF umbrella and the ISF is working towards getting Sumo accepted as an Olympic sport. It's only professional Sumo, as run by the Japan Sumo Association, which limits the numbers of non-Japanese allowed into the sport.
It is posts like this one that make me realize we really need the 'informative' button back.
 

dvcochran

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This is a difficult subject to rationally discuss the pros and cons, as it is related to cultural chauvinism, an emotionally charged issue. I am of conflicted opinion. The video above is similar to the South Pacific Islander ritual war dance, meant to intimidate the opponent with a show of unity and strength and perhaps avoiding actual physical combat. Similar displays are seen throughout the animal world to avoid intraspecies violence. Some of the ritual in sumo is based on this, much on religious (Shinto, a very Japanese) tradition. Hard for outsiders to identify with Shinto.

While other cultures may appropriate these kind of rituals on a physical level, chances are they are not a part of their cultural soul and do not have the personal meaning they have to the native culture. Imagine your country's national flag taken over by another country and used there for some mundane purpose. If you're British, how would you feel about the Palace Guards bear fur hats adopted by McDonald's as part of their uniform? Maybe some wouldn't care, but others would feel an insult.

How would an Apache or Navajo feel if a person of European descent joined in one of their cultural spirit dances? I think there would need to be a process before they felt comfortable with it. Personally, I have respect for most cultural traditions.

It is practically impossible for a non-Japanese to be accepted as Japanese (legally and socially) even if born there. It is very insular. Never colonized, little immigration, homogenous language and race, and a very long history of social norms and traditions, it is a very protective country. One can argue this is a source of national pride and strength of their culture (with many admirable qualities, IMO), and can perhaps said to be racist as well (though I think the racism is based on anybody being non-Japanese, rather than just color) It is much different than the USA which was built from a number of immigrant origins and customs. This too, is a source of strength, as well as a source of problems.

After these considerations, I am still of mixed feelings on the general subject. Regarding sumo, specifically, I think if outsiders are skillful and fully respect the traditions of the sport (which is, or at least, used to be seen as more than mere sport to the Japanese) they should be allowed to compete and be treated on an equal basis within the sumo world. They should not expect to be easily or quickly considered "family" however. Such is the reality.
Nail on the head.

I have always taken to the idea that most uses of cultural decent, say the Washington Redskins, was always a term of endearment and never intended as a slur. Audits within the Indian population found this to be the consensus. As with many things right now it is the cultural extremist that are driving many of the changes we are seeing today.
Like you said, the US is a very rich, very diverse cultural landscape. Paying homage to any one should not be a bad thing.
 

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I don't think I understand what you're saying. What about the haka thing do you think is cringy? I don't know enough about that to really understand one way or the other.

Americans doing a Mouri war chant?

Which is a big deal still in new Zealand.


By the way how intimidating would that gym be?
 
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