Put Your Questions to John Gunning

JohnGunning_Osunaarashi_Terunofuji
Photo courtesy of John Gunning

Many Tachiai readers will be familiar with John Gunning’s work, be it his insightful articles for The Japan Times, his presenting and analysis of sumo for NHK, his venture Inside Sport Japan, or from the many other places that he has provided expert analysis over the years. We’re happy to say that we’ll be meeting up with John during the upcoming Hatsu-basho in Tokyo, and will be sharing the contents of that conversation in a first-of-its-kind interview feature here on Tachiai after the tournament.

As such, we’d be happy to include questions for John from the wider Tachiai community. As John has profound experience in, and understanding of the sumo world, it’s a great opportunity for Tachiai readers and commenters to pose a question for analysis, or learn more about his experiences and great moments in his career in sumo (or even his own action in the dohyo!). Obviously we can’t guarantee we’ll get to every question, but we’re hoping to include as many Tachiai reader questions as possible! Leave your questions on the comments section of this post and we’ll bring them along.

While awaiting the feature, click here to check out the Inside Sport Japan website. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

(p.s. if you’re on any of those social platforms and not following Tachiai – now’s a good time to make sure you’re following us as well – we’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!)

29 thoughts on “Put Your Questions to John Gunning


  1. Question to John:

    Clearly you believe, and most of us fans agree, that there needs to be a series of changes in the Sumo Association geared towards injury prevention and allowing for full rehabilitation of injured wrestlers. However, believing it to be true and making it happen are two different things. Are there any groups within the Kyokai that are working towards making it happen? One would assume that the Rikishi Association would push for this, but it doesn’t seem like that’s in the works, perhaps because the leaders of the Rikishi Association will soon be oyakata themselves. Who else is there that can advocate for the rank and file wrestlers?

    Thanks much!


  2. Question:

    When the rikishis go backstage they are flanked by assistants who are pretty large. I was wondering who are they, are they trainers or in-training rikishis. Are they required to be large and wear a top-knot as well?


  3. (what a wonderful interview “get,” Tachai folk!)

    Mr. Gunning, we have all seen the tensions between sumo-for-Japanese-rikishi-only crowd and those who accept or even celebrate the infusion of international talent. As Japan changes demographically, how do you expect that to change? In your estimation, are there any wrestlers (Japanese or otherwise) that have particularly suffered due to that tension, whether due to chronic under-ranking, too-abrupt promotion. the one-gaijin-per-stable role, or something else? And if the sheer talent of a Hakuko can’t convince some folk, what on earth will? (Okay, may that last one has perhaps no answer… 🙂 ) Thank you sir!


  4. I realize this is a ticklish subject for the Japanese, but if a rikishi dies before he can retire, do they cut his chonmage postmortem or do they cremate him with it still attached?


  5. What is John’s favorite kimarite?

    What is his favorite part of his job?

    What was his most memorable experience with sumo?

    Who are three active rikishi that he loves to watch?


  6. I _was_ going to ask “who’s the shrimpy rikishi in the middle of the picture?” — ooh, sorry! —

    Instead, I want to ask Mr. Gunning to identify the innovators in Sumo — an oyakata with new training ideas, or a member of NSK who has innovated in logistics, management, publicity, etc.


  7. Mr. Gunning,

    Do you have a sense as to the size of the global sumo fanbase outside Japan? Is there any conversation within the kyokai about making sumo more accessible to fans outside of the country, and to make it possible for those fans to benefit sumo financially (such as by selling merchandise or offering paid sumo streaming services etc.)?


  8. Do you think Onosho will be a future Ozeki, or maybe Yokozuna? I Think he’s the best Young talent in Sumo now.


  9. My question:

    Following the basho there are going to be elections for the NSK board, which are going to be especially hot, what with Isegahama quitting then re-running, Takanohana being dismissed and (probably) re-running, and Nishonoseki only barely conscious. What are the current factions? Do toshiyari on loaned kabu really have to align with the ichimon that loans out the kabu? Does the fact that the ailing Shotenro got a hitherto unused kabu change anything in the power play?


  10. What do you predict for the future of sumo in say, the next 50-100 years? Both in the ring, on the management side and in popular culture. it’s quite different looking at the fighting strategy and style of sumo from the 50s and 60s compared to today’s competitions. With the massive population decline looming over Japan in the next century, will the NSK have to relax its foreigner rules, or (oh the horrors!) even let a women’s professional league develop?


  11. Two questions from me:

    1) Is it likely that any changes will be made to the basho schedule, the jungyo schedule, or the construction of the dohyo in order to reduce the rate of injuries? Might we see a return of kosho-seido or something like it?

    2) How is homosexuality viewed in the Sumo world?


  12. To modern Japanese, is Sumo still spiritual and devotional, or do they view it as entertainment with a few religious traditions hanging on that no one takes seriously?


  13. I have something that I have been curious about, but I am not too sure if this is something John can answer.
    I want to know what the motivation is for the older Rikishi, who have never reached sekitori to stay in the sport. It would be fascinating one day to do a profile piece on some of these Rikishi, as they seem to really be the backbone of the sport.


  14. How much influence does the oyakata have on tactics on a match by match basis? In particular, do or can they direct their rikishi to perform henka? During the basho, are they actively providing coaching/analysis of upcoming bouts, or are the rikishi left to figure it out for themselves?


  15. Question for John.

    Hi John, as a Sports Journalism student, I was wondering about the state of national sports reporting in Japan around Sumo.
    From the outside it appears that the national press are “in the pocket” of the sport. Some of your articles for The Japan Times seem to be rather forward compared to some of the English language reporting we get to read.
    Is it a case that national sports reporters are sympathetic to the sport to stay on the good side and remain in favour, or is it nothing more than a cultural difference between Japanese and western sports reporting?
    Also, is there a wedge between the sports journalists who cover the sport, and those news reporters who appear whenever “newsworthy” stories and scandals make to the front pages?
    Looking forward to more revealing articles and insights John, you’re writing is inspirational.
    Mick Palmer


  16. Question for John:

    I’d be interested in knowing more about the women in the sumo world. Any insights into how much the okamisan are involved in decisions beyond running the heya household, are they the secret glue holding it all together? are there any okamisan that are active in social media?

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