Sumo turnout down
in recession-plagued Japan
New ads try to attract more fansAssociated Press
TOKYO -- Low turnout at sumo tournaments in Japan has prompted the ancient sport to take the unusual step of aggressively advertising itself in the nation's newspapers.
"Sumo goes through ups and downs, and we're in a down phase at the moment," Teruyuki Hanaregoma, spokesman of the Japan Sumo Association, said Friday. "Sluggishness in the world economy is probably behind this."
In the past, the association has often avoided running ads, fearing that too many fans would overwhelm its ticketing offices.
Sumo, a 2,000-year-old sport with roots in Japan's indigenous Shinto religion, is a one-on-one bout by gargantuan athletes trying to wrestle each other down or out of an elevated clay ring. Following an ancient tradition, the wrestlers stamp the ground each tournament day to ward off evil spirits.
Unfortunately, the spirits aren't the only ones avoiding the ring these days.
The major sumo arenas around the country, in recent years packed to the brim, reported full attendance only three days in the latest 15-day tournament, the Asahi newspaper said Friday.
That may be because Japan is struggling to recover from its worst recession since World War II.
Consumer spending has been low for months, and that's probably one reason that some sumo fans are leery of shelling out 11,300 yen ($110) for a typical one-day ticket.
For more sumo information online, try:
Da Kine Sumo E-zine
Kyodo News Service