The media has been full of reports about ties between professional sumo and the Japanese underworld.
The first question that comes to almost everyone’s mind is, how could these guys be so dumb?
Nikkan Gendai (July 1) looks to Alexandre Dumas for the answer, and — voila — comes up with Cherchez la femme.
As reported in the ongoing weekly column “The Dark Side of the Sex Business,” an ex-sumo grappler who opened up a “pink” shop after retirement tells the tabloid, “Sex shops can be profitable. You can expect to turn over 100 million yen or more in a year. So thanks to the sex trade we have a chance to become a yokozuna (grand champion), in a manner of speaking.”
Unfortunately, there’s a major impediment to such operations. Once the shops start making money, the yakuza are on to them like a ton of bricks, charging all kinds of excessive fees for rents, recruitment ads and others — at four to five times the going rate.
“Sumoists are easy to con,” an unnamed gangster is quoted as saying. “Most of them join the sport out of middle school, and they’re ignorant in the ways of the world, and trusting to boot. We can easily exploit these flaws.”
Actually, some gang members are also former sumoists. When a grappler retires, he’ll be approached with an offer to “assist” in the running of his sex shop. When and if business slows down, the gang will help keep it afloat by extending loans at usurious rates.
Once in debt to the gangsters, the ex-grappler is likely to turn to gambling to reduce his debt. But instead of going to the racetrack, he’ll make bets with the girls in his own shop. This system calls for girls making good on their losses by having a portion of their salaries withheld.
Should the girls fall too heavily into debt, they’ll just disappear; but the shop owner can’t flee so easily, and will find himself deeply in debt to the gangs.
To perpetuate the system, the gangs will order the ex-wrestler to approach young, still active grapplers from his former stable, and ask them if they are interested in starting up their own sex business to support them after retirement. And thus the vicious circle is maintained. (K.S.)
Source: “Sumotori wo kamo ni shita yakuza-tachi,” Nikkan Gendai (July 1, page 22)