As an update to my previous post on the subject, I am pleased to report that Kotooshu has beaten Asashoryu and Hakuho on successive nights to sit at 12 wins and 0 losses, with 3 bouts to go. Asashoryu has three losses and Hakuho now has two in this basho. Both the yokozuna looked shocked at their defeats, while Kotooshu could not resist a huge beaming smile on each night (against protocol, of course).
If Kotooshu were to lose all of the final three contests (unlikely against lesser opponents), it is still possible for either of the yokozuna to take the Emperor’s Cup. But in all practical terms, my man is now a certainty for the title.
He will be the first European to hold the Cup, and another in the long run of non-Japanese winners. The press is already full of “blame-the-foreigners-for-the-sorry-state-of-sumo-in-Japan” stories. Kotooshu’s win, and the failure of many prominent Japanese rikishi this time, will no doubt add to the pressures on the sport. But I sure hope they don’t go the route of restrictive xenophobia.
Most sports have learned that the public, given the chance, will usually prefer to see the best in the world play each other at the club level, rather than to be restricted to the smaller, and perhaps less talented, national pool. The NBA, the NHL, soccer everywhere, and cricket are prime examples of where the use of globally available talent has led to huge successes for local clubs. Sumo should maintain its current entry policies for non-Japanese rikishi. And the Sumo Association should turn its considerable energies to marketing the sport in Japan as the best in the world rather than as a national relic deserving of patronage.