Fan-produced content increases sumo’s international exposure

On April 25, the Japan Times hosted a live social media discussion focusing on the new release banzuke rankings.

The 80-minute Twitter Space chat also discussed topics and questions raised by sumo followers around the world.

That interaction continued into the hours and days following the event as fans of the sport from all corners of the world reached out to feedback and opinions.

As expected, a significant number were simply looking for basic information about the rules, structure and culture of sumo, but the depth and breadth of knowledge of foreign fans was also shown in the correspondence.

For anyone who has closely followed Japan’s national sport over the past two decades, that’s something that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Websites, forums, podcasts and YouTube channels in various languages ​​have been a feature of online sumo fandom for years. It may not have been part of the public consciousness, but the sport has had a dedicated and knowledgeable following overseas for at least half a century.

Sumo blog writer Bruce Henderson Tachiai poses with a giant macaron given as part of the France-Japan Friendship Cup to basho winners in 2016. | COURTESY OF BRUCE HENDERSON

Of course, it’s far from the only effort with a passionate athletic fan base producing quality content of its own. But a particular combination of geographic, sporting and linguistic isolation means that unofficial sumo coverage plays a central role for many overseas fans.

It is also something that is set to increase in the coming years as the growing interest in sports abroad fuels the desire for content.

As long as it is possible to count on one hand the number of English-speaking journalists in Japan reporting mainly sumo – with several fingers left hanging – the importance of translations, blogs and fan-produced reports will remain high.

As the number and variety of sumo-dedicated subreddits and Discord servers continues to expand, much of the best and most reliable information can still be found in places long familiar to veteran fans.

The Sumo Foruman online bulletin board started in 2001, is approaching half a million unique posts and remains the central repository for much of that knowledge.

While many of its regulars know that real identities of major contributors and real-life encounters are common, sumo-style usernames are ubiquitous on the site.

The contributions that posters with names like Asashosakari and Akinomaki have made to foreign fans’ understanding of professional and amateur sumo are invaluable.

Another forum supporter ranging from the shikona (ring name) Doitsuyama, meanwhile, created arguably one of the most important sumo instruments of all time.

Sumo reference is a searchable online database that has become the first point of contact for virtually every single journalist, content creator, or sumo insider looking for information.

All three of those posters are German, and it’s an interesting curiosity that they, along with a few other fans outside the Anglosphere, provide most of the sumo data consumed by native English speakers.

Hebrew is the mother tongue of a more well-known fan.

From his home in Tel Aviv, musician Moti Dichne has kept those who have not been able to read Japanese since the 1990s updated.

With an understanding of the language that stems from a partly childhood childhood in Tokyo, Dichne is not only by far the most active user on the Sumo forum, but also a YouTuber, game creator and regular host of both TV shows in Israel than in Japan.

He also acted as an interpreter, repairman and guide when the Sadogatake stable visited Israel in 2006.

Israeli musician and sumo content creator Moti Dichne (center) poses with ex yokozuna Musashimaru (left) and ex ozeki Konishiki at Musashigawa stables in May 2019. | BY COURTESY OF MOTI DICHNE
Israeli musician and sumo content creator Moti Dichne (center) poses with ex yokozuna Musashimaru (left) and ex ozeki Konishiki at Musashigawa stables in May 2019. | BY COURTESY OF MOTI DICHNE

Dichne is well known both inside and outside the sumo world and has longstanding friendships with several exes rikishi. His irreverent ideas sometimes ruffle the feathers, but the insights and experience he brings to the translated content has ensured that he remains a go-to source of information for both veteran fans and new fans alike.

In recent years, sumo content on mailing lists, forums, and websites from the late 1990s and early 2000s has been supplemented with information on a number of newer platforms.

Podcasts and YouTube channels are among the most visible, but a variety of news sources have helped sumo find new audiences.

Two of the overtime in recent times have been tachiai Other Breaking the Grand Sumo.

The first is a blog-style site that has numerous contributors providing specialized footage.

Whether it’s UCLA professor Leonid Kruglyak analyzing banzuke, or Herouth (another Japanese-speaking resident in Tel Aviv) providing daily translations and lengthy discussions about mawashi or regional tours, Tachiai is a great source of deeper sumo cuts.

Grand Sumo Breakdown is one of the two most recent podcasts, along with Sumo Kaboom, run by US-based sumo fans. What they lack in terms of longevity, they more than make up for with enthusiasm and a willingness to be proactive and seek interview topics.

In recent years, the two shows have been responsible for a huge amount of amateur sumo coverage in the United States. Both provided live streams and commentary for tournaments in that country and helped ensure better access to the often fragmented and incomplete data available in the lesser-known form of sumo.

Sumo’s international content creators come from a wide variety of backgrounds and populate an equally diverse collection of online venues.

One thing they all have in common, however, is a love of sports and a history of enormous effort for little or no reward.

In a sport where only a small fraction of the overall coverage is available in languages ​​other than Japanese and accessing content outside of Japan is often extremely difficult or impossible, these unpaid translators, journalists, bloggers and podcasters deserve a round of applause. .

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