With the Haru basho hurtling toward us, its time for me to speak up about the actions of the Japan Sumo Association to dismantle sumo fan media following the Hatsu basho. If you had not heard, all of the sumo bigs: Kintamayama, Jason and Natto, were removed from YouTube, and their content erased. In the case of Jason and Kintamayama, that catalog of old videos went back over a decade, and represented a remarkable time capsule. All of it cast away and removed.
I am well aware that in legal terms, the NSK and NHK were well within their rights to do this. They owned the content that these creators were using to create their own content. Their take down and removal was completely legitimate and technically correct, and being technically correct can count for a lot in Japan.
But gone forever are “font day”, Jason hollering “He got him!”, and a swarm of other elements that drew many of us to the sport to begin with. For quite a lot of us, it was Jason or Kintamayama that made it possible for us to become sumo fans at all. For the longest time it was nearly impossible to enjoy sumo in the rest of the world, until these modern day scions of Prometheus took their own time and initiative to re-broadcast matches via video sharing.
Personally speaking, I made daily use of all three sources for creating write ups of highlights and previews. I can’t tell you how valuable it is to have Kintamayama’s digest, Natto’s graphics, or Jason’s commentary when I assembled content for this blog. Gone – all gone. I would at times, while writing previews, seek out videos of earlier matches, Jason’s was always the first choice, and if not his channel, Kintamayama’s. That whole “Mock Basho” during COVID was built around my ability to look at prior match ups between the rikishi and take a guess how the play by play could be modified to match the results created by the GSB team.
But yes, the NSK and NHK had the rights to take it down. But should they have done it?
For myself, I have multiple ways to watch sumo in real time and time shifted. I should be able to continue coverage much like I have in the past, but it will be more difficult and time consuming. But then again, I am a bit of a sumo “Super fan” with the resources to spend to make it possible. For the casual fan, they may find themselves starved of content, and foreign enthusiasm for Japan’s national sport may fade. As I have always said, sumo is a Japanese sport produced for Japanese speaking Japanese people living in Japan. Maybe this move was to shore up that reality, or maybe it was just short sighted attempt to maintain control over their rightful ownership of content. Either way, the sumo fan base lost valuable assets, and we are all a bit worse off for their actions.
37 thoughts on “The Destruction of Sumo Fan Media”
The decision to kill off the international fan base is weird. I would be
happy to pay $100 p.a. to Kintamayama with half to Moti and half to
Getting older I try more and more to observe my main principle, experimented over the years:
“When you take a decision, whatever good motivations and justifications you have, look at the consequences!!!” Such decision will discourage the promotion and appreciation of Sumo all over the world. If we would make a parallel, as Italian, it’s like banning export of Pasta and Parmesan…
I’m glad you posted this. I’ve had similar thoughts sitting in draft (!) for a couple weeks. I may fire that missive across at some point once I’ve had time to digest all these developments. Seems like we’re all united and that’s a good thing. It’s 1 step forward and 4 steps back for these guys…
It would be interesting to know how many North American and European sumo fans there are out there whose contact with the sport comes exclusively or primarily from channels like these. Whatever that figure is, I am guessing that the vast majority of them will be gone. I’m not sure how much I’ll keep up with the competition anymore. Grand Sumo Breakdown is a nice way to introduce newbies to the sport, but honestly for anyone who considers themselves a fan with any experience watching, that show leaves a great deal to be desired. The NHK daily highlights are good for makuuchi, but the delay between the action and the broadcasts (and the fact that it is accessible only at fixed times) dampens my enthusiasm (especially because of the former point) for trying to keep up that way. If the twitch broadcasters keep up their thing, I suppose that’s helpful, but, again, you have to be on your toes to catch the re-broadcasts (and then even if you can read the rishiki’s names via the furigana that Abema helpfully puts on the screen with the shikona, you have to watch essentially in real time, which can be difficult if you have a job).
I really think, as you do, Bruce, that the sport is going to suffer a serious blow in terms of western fandom. It’s a great pity. Fans like me may well just drift away. (It’s ironic, too, that this crackdown comes at the same time as MLS has ripped away soccer broadcasts from local and regional stations, making a new premium streaming source just about the only way to watch MLS in the US, with the infrequent bones thrown to Fox. They might survive that choice but again they’re shooting themselves in the foot in terms of growing the sport’s popularity)
Whoops! Grand Sumo Prime Time! No offense to our Grand Sumo Breakdown friends!
Whoops! I said “Grand Sumo Breakdown” above when I meant “Grand Sumo Primetime”! No offense to our Grand Sumo Breakdown friends!
I started watching sumo in the 1990s when it was available on ESPN in the US. When they stopped carrying it, I thought I’d never see it again. I finally found it again with Kintamayama in 2014 on YouTube and have never missed a basho since. It inspired me to take a trip to Japan in 2015 where I got to see a day of live sumo. I returned to Japan in 2019. Watching sumo on YT was a big contributor to my traveling to Japan, so they may find they lose more than just people watching. Kinta and Jason have kept my interest alive all these years. I hope they find a way to continue sharing their love of the sport for those of us who have no other way to watch it. I enjoy all the info shared on Tachia too!
Some great news. I received an email from natto (as i supported him before) about a new tube channel as well as channel on discord. Link is: https://www.youtube.com/@nattosumo3