Sumo attendance hits record lows

Sumo attendance hits record lows

Attendance at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo has sunk to record low levels on weekdays, reflecting a dearth of foreign tourists in the wake of Japan’s earthquake-tsunami disaster and fan disappointment at a match-fixing scandal.

Weekday attendance at the tournament, which began Sunday, has only filled about half of Ryogoku Kokugikan’s 11,000 seats, setting a new record low since the arena began hosting tournaments in Tokyo in 1985.

While the match-fixing scandal, which led to the expulsion of some wrestlers and a stablemaster, is partly responsible for the shrinking crowd, a sharp drop in overseas visitors to Japan is the bigger blow.

“About 40 percent of day tickets were bought by foreigners until now, but I haven’t seen any standing in the queue during this tournament,” lamented stablemaster Hidenoyama, who is in charge of ticket sales at the Japan Sumo Association.

Those foreigners who have made the trip to Japan do not seem to be put off by the match-fixing scandal. Tourists are more interested in the culture of sumo rather than match results, said one visitor from Britain.