On Sunday, Hakuho wrapped up the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament title in Osaka for the sixth time in eight tries.
“Seeing the bulky body of a sumo wrestler being covertly pushed into the back of a van parked outside a sex parlor was once a sign that spring was just around the corner,” a local fuzoku reporter tells Shukan Jitsuwa (April 2).
The magazine cites past scandals as the reason. Since 2010, the sport has attempted to improve its image following revelations of betting on baseball by wrestlers and match-fixing, the latter of which caused the cancellation of the Osaka tournament in 2011.
“A critical eye is being cast on wrestlers,” says a sumo insider.
A lot of the popular stables, continues the insider, are asking their wrestlers to keep it in the mawashi in the name of fostering a positive public image.
A former rikishi wrestler tells the magazine that associating with a hostess at a run-of-the-mill kyabakura or “girl’s bar” could be the source of trouble. “On the other hand, young wrestlers don’t even hit high-end hostess clubs in Kita Shinchi,” the ex-grappler says. “In the end, a lot of them wind up in the Minami area.”
But the collection of bars and restaurants in Minami were quiet both before and after the two-week-long tournament.
“Every year at the end of February, you can see wrestlers out on the town, but that hasn’t been the case this year,” says a merchant in the area. “And now that the matches have started, the foot traffic is even less. As well, it is not just the fuzoku joints; restaurants are also empty.”
“Especially the tourists from Asia, they’ll come up from behind the wrestlers they may encounter and begin pestering them,” says the ex-wrestler. “It’s no joke if there’s trouble. So these guys are being schooled on how to behave when they go outside.”
Source: “Ozumou harubasho renjitsu manin onrei demo rikishi kyaku gekigen de gakkari no Osaka iromachi,” Shukan Jitsuwa (April 2, pages 204-205)