I wrote this at 2007.08.05  

Sumo wrestler(rikishi) Asasyoryu was punished by the Japan sumo association in August 2007 as he played soccer while he did not attend the annual summer sumo tour because of his sports injury.

He seems to be attacked from all of his surroundings in Japan.
Most of them say as follows,
"He acts like this because he don't learn the meaning of his important position as Yokozuna. He should not be permitted."
"We cannnot help punishing him strictly since his behaviors corrupt the order of sumo society."

But I don't think so.
It might be because I'm not a sumo fan and don't understand their enthusiastic anxiety to sumo.
Nevertheless, I intend to write my opinion here.

I see this issue's theme is not the Asasyoryu's luck of mental nobleness, but the system of Japanese sumo society and moreover, a issue of international frictions.

Because if he was a Japanese, he would neither go back to his home Mongolia, nor be requested there to attend children's charity soccer game as a national hero.
The occurences he brings about by his such special existence reveal the problems of Japanese sumo society.

He is a Yokozuna, which is the most authorized position of Japanese national sports sumo.
Although he is a Mongolian, not a Japanese.
I think this position is more delicate than most people recognize.

Though Japanese TV programs never show any scenes except Asasyoryu's playing soccer, originally he did not go to play soccer for his pleasure this time.
I heard he met a retired Japanese soccer player Hidetoshi Nakata by chance on his way home and was invited by him and by Mongolian government to see a children's charity soccer game.
Just the lively mood during the soccer game made him to show his soccer performance unexpectedly.

It's natural Asasyoryu wants to make some contribution to his home country.
Moreover, we can say he deserves to be praised to do that.
But usually he must stay in Japan all the time and has no time to spend upon such contributions.
My opinion is it means the fact that he is not given times to use for his home country except this exceptional days off he could have because he got injured.

Now I think about the situation of Japanese sumo society.
The annual schedules of rikishis have 6 seasonal tournaments, local tours and pracices between them.

Tournaments were added from 4 to 6 times a year in 1950's.
I remember I read somewhere that the purpose of adding was to increase profits.
As a matter of course, it made rikishis busier.
Many rikishis are said to have chronic troubles on their bodies recently, and certain people seek its reason into these hard schedules.

Asasyoryu has continued practicing in such situation, maintained outstanding strength and carried burdens to be the single top as Yokozuna.
So his body was harmed.
So seldom could he go back home.
The sumo society's system is to be blamed, isn't it?

As everybody knows, Japanese have an advantage to be quite diligent in general.
However, I think that make them likely to claim excessive diligence to others as well.
For example, administrators require to his emploees extremely long work time and high achievements naturally.
When the outcome was not good, they urge only the person himself while do not make any effort to improve the incomplete system.

I think this leads to a current social issue in Japan; "working poor people".
They work maximum and they earn minimum.
They have to work longer until nights/in holidays as deflation progresses endlessly and regurations are eased.
They deal with the increasing requests of administrators by their one and only body which do not increase.

If most of them become unable to keep up to the situation and collapse, the country also collapse.
We have reached the margin we can screw outcomes out of people.
I think we have to change the direction.

We can think about the sumo society in a same way.
Of course efforts to prosper the traditional sumo is good, but increasing sumo fans and adding to bow-office reciepts can be endless.
Of course it's important to serve sumo fans faithfully, but if rikishis were consumed in serving fans, it means putting the cart before the horse.

Isn't it time for Japanese sumo society considering to change the annual schedule seriouly?

Next, I discuss on foreign rikishis.
They have increased in number because various regurations have been eased.
It might also be because they are physically and mentally more patient than Japanese ones.

Anyway, internationalization is an inevitable stream in everything.
Even how eager to cherish the traditional national sport, somo is not just for Japanese now.
As sumo is a precious culture and sport as Japanese think, it is also worldwide precious.

The sumo society administrate forein rikishis and require them just to obey and adapt to Japanese rules and custums so far.
I wonder it is a selfish request against the times or not.

Think about international marriage to compare.

Discords often occur between the husband and the wife which come from incompatibility of not only their personal characters, but also their nationalities.
Each may think the other is totally mad or wrong.
They have to meet each other halfway to live with.
If one side has his own way to everything and the other solely endure, the relation would not last long.

Just like this, I think not only Asasyoryu but the sumo association and Japanese people also must make concessions.
The hard punishment to forbid him going anywhere including his home is heartless and narrow-minded in this meaning.
I feel pity for him.

At the same time, I worry about the future of Japanese sumo.
The sumo society seems to narrow its own prospects by going against the times of internationalization.

No one can wipe off foreign rikishi's blood and memories from them.
I rather suggest to loosen their schedule in Japan and promote them to contribute their countries.
Both the rikishis and people of their countries will thank and admire Japan then.
They will endeavor more diligently to serve Japanese sumo, too.

I discuss another points.

First, about Japanese general public.
In addition to the sumo assotiation, I think they are going against internationalization as well.

I heard most people interviewed by media criticised Asasyoryu.
Severe comments like "His injury must be feigned!", "He betrayed fans!"
are inbelievable to me.
Will they be so strict if Japanese rikishi do a similar thing? -I think no.

Japanese have tendencies to shut out others.
Maybe the tendencies seem to be encouraged more in national sports like sumo.
I see many people are more critical about forein rikishis than about Japanese ones.
I know one who says "I don't like him for no reason."
and another one who calls "I want you to be defeated!" everytime when he sees a foreign rikishi starts his fight.

But the forein rikishis love a Japanese traditional sport and try to adapt to Japanese custums.
We Japanese rather thank them, don't we?
Isn't it impossible for Japanese?

Second, I think there is a leap in the logic from kicking a soccer ball to the view as "feigned injury".

Since Asasyoryu is a trained athlete, his injured bones and joints are covered with trained strong muscles.
Even though he cannot continue a hard series of professional sumo games, he may be able to run and kick a ball for a short time.
Maybe his injury was not clitical immediately, but was a condition like he need some rest before he restart another intense sumo play.

Then I think it's wrong to call it "feigned injury" or "skipping a job".
I wonder whether such people recognize rikishis as kind of machines which must keep up playing sumo without rest until they end up in breakedown.
A cruel idea, isn't it?

Third, about his sense of responsibility as Yokozuna.

We cannnot deny that he was thoughtless that he performed a sport in public while he was absent from the sumo tour job to give his body a rest.

But still, if he did this to reward Mongolian government and children nevertheless he had pain... I have pity on him.
It's paradoxical if he desired to do so since he had a sense of responsibility as a national hero.

Even if he did it to enjoy himself, I think it's natural that he felt like to make marry in liberation when he was released from the strain of games as a professional athlete and surrounded by friendly countrymans with cheers.
The more strict estimation stresses out him in Japan, the more big his libaration feeling will be.

Moreover, although Japanese often say "Yokozuna must be noble-minded as well as strong.", I don't think it's proper.

Because rikishis become Yokozuna in their 20's since they reach their physical peaks at those times.
But, see, 20's are still young immature ages in human lives.
I think it's wrong to anticipate them comlete good characters.

And, man cannot always be good.
If Japanese expect Asasyoryu to behave good all the time at his work, they should give him certain times to relax to compensate that.
Was he given enough rest time? I don't think so.

Asasyoryu has also been claimed a few inapproproate behaviors previously.
Many of Japanese bind this case to those past ones.
For example, I read an assessment some Japanese intellectuals did;
"The sumo association punished him hard because he did some other troublesome behaviors by now, too."

But I think these logics will not be understood by people of other countries.
If he was bad, he should be punished whenever he was bad.
Or they must announce clearly that this punishment is given to him as the sum of all past ill behaviors, namely, what and what and what.
The sumo association does not refer past cases in their announcement.

I consider this case solely.
And my conclusion is his behavior was not evil, he was just rash.

I worry over him.
If anyone surrounding him never see him in a warmer view like "He made just a mistake out of youthful folly", I suppose he will feel very hard.

Mr. Asasyoryu, the punishment you got was so stern and your surrouning people look you severely.
But don't give up. Don't be defeated.
Everybody fails, learns and grows up, those are completely usual steps for a human.

And still many Japanese love your strength.
You gained it from your past continuous good efforts.
You should be confident of that. Please keep on going.

I believe forein rikishis like you will slowly one by one change the recognition of Japanese sumo society and all Japanese people.