The Destruction of Sumo Fan Media

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.

38 thoughts on “The Destruction of Sumo Fan Media

  1. That big sigh you heard was all the Sumo fans around the World (not in Japan) missing their favorite sport because of the short sighted NSK, billions in earnings going down the toilet.

  2. I’ve posted a couple of times now but they’re not being published, probably spam filter because I’m putting links in, but:
    – Jason’s full channel was archived by me and a Redditor who wished to remain anonymous, you can find it on the Internet Archive.
    – Someone put Kintamayama’s channel on the Internet Archive too, I can’t say if its the full thing but it looks like it. Again, just search on the Internet Archive. He also has a trial channel on Rumble, search on there.
    – Natto will be doing videos for the March basho, probably using unlisted Youtube videos, other sites like Rumble and Odysee, as well as his Telegram channel and Discord server.

    I know it sucks all this happened, but it’s not over yet, and I’m just trying to spread the word a little! Can’t post all the links on here it seems however, but they’re out there.

    • Much appreciated. As an old time tech guy, we all worked to try and make the “internet” unkillable back in its early days. Sort of depressing that through consolidation and monopolies that a handful of companies are close to being able to remove whatever they choose. Glad that you folks put in an effort to try and preserve it.

  3. This is what you point out in your publication Bruce that make me sad the most.
    Yes of course those channel were use to help peoples around the world who don’t have access to Sumo to be able to see it. Because all the means that the NHK have put in place right now to show sumo outside of Japan are not necessarly available in all country and places. Especally remote one. When you live in far far places away from big city.

    But most of all, those channel were SUMO HISTORY’S ARCHIVE !!!!

    It was a way to be able to see long forgotten bouts of Rikishi. Some that aren’t even active anymore. You could see, with a bit of a search for example, the match Yoshikaze won against Hakuho in a strange “Matta non-matta”, or the last match of Kotoōshū, or that match where Shikimori Inosuke fell of the dohyō and the other gyōji sitting on the right side had to get up and step in to finish the match. Things like that….

    Exactly like you said, it was a time capsule that was being recorded and being made available to humanity. Now…on the other side, i wouldn’t be that sadded and upset if NHK would have actually made public their OWN video date base of past recorded match for everyone to see and consult. But currently, they do NOT ! They REMOVED something that they currently do not offert any alternative to get back.

    For a society where one of it’s core principle is the respect of traditions and the caring of heritage….They litteraly on the contrary with that killed their own HISTORY !!!

    Thank god there was peoples like in the message above that saved all those records and posted it in the internet archive so that it will never be loss again. Still, it won’t be as easy to as before to consult and watch them.

  4. It is sad. It is however also typical of the corporate internet. Imdb was a wonderful site which was wrecked when apparently under pressure from certain large movie studios they removed that section of their site where ordinary people had spent much time and energy filling in background details for the films concerned, absolutely the site’s best section. Likewise Operabase befell a similar limitation as to what could be seen by the ordinary member of the public. Result; for myself now I rarely visit Imdb or Operabase. Boxoffice Mojo I now recall did likewise.

    What exactly do they think they are achieving?

  5. Moti is going to a different platform, its been tested. So we will try that. It’s always seems crazy to me how much the association fights fans who have no other way to see it. They have a service but you have to watch it live I believe. It’s 2023, how hard would it be to have their own YouTube channel or their own site with videos you can watch any time. I actually found Sumo waiting for a flight in Narita, I almost missed my flight!

    • A Japanese sport made for Japanese speaking Japanese people living in Japan, it does seem to be a theme. I try to respect that as much as I can at all times, but on occasion, it rubs up against the rest of the world’s interest in this great sport.

  6. I’ve only spent a lot of time watching Kintamayama’s channel, so I’m not particularly familiar with the others. But the legal question (at least in the US) is still open. A very good argument about his short excerpts with additional commentary being fair use can be made. Similar to other sport highlights that are regularly broadcast. There is some precedent for this. However, to settle the question would require a stupid large amount in lawyer fees and is not a sure win. So probably not worth it for someone doing it as a hobby.

    That said, Youtube does not follow the law on this, but rather a far more restrictive set of Terms of Service (As is their right under the law). So even if the video’s in question were judged legal, Youtube would still not have to allow them.

    • Yeah, comments above clearly state my opinion that NHK / NSK have every right to get that all taken down, but in doing so have harmed their own cause, thought I later point out that they may not care at the moment, as supporting foreign fans might seem odd or unwise to them.

  7. Well, it’s possible that after three years of the pandemic, the NSK is desperately short of cash, and is closing off the ways fans can watch their content without paying for it. If these changes were to increase the NSK revenue stream (which I accept may be doubtful), I would favor them.

    • That would be incredibly short-sighted. If they had a system of some type in place so fans outside of Japan could pay a fee to watch, similar to Rizen, it might make some sense. There is money to made on us foreigners.

  8. There are so far those that show the content on the ” purple App ” and they tend to have the matches up for awhile. Natt from what I know has multiple channels that The powers that’s be don’t know of yet. Jason has made his choice to now show the matches for now.. I can’t say more on that.

  9. Once again the NSK and NHK clutch defeat from the jaws of victory!!!

    General Public: Let’s get millions of new fans around the world each year with as much media exposure as possible.
    NSK and NHK: Nah.
    General Public: Why not?
    NSK and NHK: We’d rather continue with trying to only get the Japanese fans excited by hyping perpetual duds, frauds, and wannabes.
    General Public: You mean like last basho where a guy in Juryo grabbed all the attention and headlines ahead of a guy on a Yokozuna rope run?
    NSK and NHK: Yea, like that.
    General Public: The world could be your oyster but instead you’re settling for week-old carp and a bowl of stale rice?
    NSK and NHK: F the fans around the world and BTW we hate oysters and don’t even mention the use of 21st century technology to us.
    General Public: Good luck with that, you’re a bunch of flaming idiots!

  10. Without bringing up the dreaded X word…does anyone know of any Japanese sites similar to the ones that got clobbered that are still in action…or did they suffer the same fate ?????

  11. I’m a newer-ish fan (started watching in July 2020) and I started by watching Grand Sumo Highlights on the NHK World app on my Roku. That’s how I’ve watched every day of every basho since. If you’re actually concerned about new fans’ ability to watch the sport, point them to Grand Sumo Highlights. It’s makuuchi only, but that is what new fans will want to see.

    For lower divisions, Abema streams are still a thing. It’s how I’ve watched them once my interest grew beyond just the top division, though I still end up watching GSH for makuuchi anyway.

    The point I’m trying to make is that (unless Abema goes nuclear like NHK did) there are still lots of ways for fans to see sumo. And I’m also not really convinced “new” sumo fans were really being introduced to it through fan creators the way a lot of the community think they were. (and either way it’s all anecdotal evidence anyway)

    I think sumo is going to be fine internationally. People are very attached to fan creators that they have followed and are sad they got taken down, but it isn’t all doom and gloom.

  12. Current chairman Hakkaku has been anything but bad for sumo and during recent elections I was hoping that he would be replaced by someone who understands fanbase better.

    Hakkaku is clearly driving international fanbase away, somehow forgetting how big international contingent was at recent Hakuho retirement ceremony. It should also be noted that under Hakkaku, the number of rikishi in Grand Sumo has declined to levels not seen for decades – 603 rikishi across 6 divisions; 17 down on one year ago and almost 70 down since 2010.

    Not sure what is behind this drive by NSK, they will lose international support and since NHK highlights are unwatchable, I am not sure where this is going with regards to international promotion. I do hope Abema streaming stays alive and thanks for Davit from Georgia to facilitate some of the streams, we should support him. Also thanks to Ollie (@olliemilne) for mentioning the Internet Archive website.

      • Happy to elaborate; firstly NHK don’t show all matches, secondly the commentary is always aimed at people who have never been exposed to Sumo (a strategy that does not make sense), which means they often leave out important details that are of interest to more experienced followers, such as us fans reading this post. Thirdly, the commentary, especially by Hiro is of primary school grade and just terrible to listen to.

        I hope Abema stays on unhindered, I much rather watch their coverage for top three divisions and have a translator running in the background which results in a much better expert commentary.

        But in closing, I should rephrase, unwatchable to “inadequate, bordering on patronising”.

        • You use a translator that translates the video commentary in real time? How do you do that? I’d love to be able to get more out of the commentary than my almost non-existent Japanese allows.

          • I’ve been using google translate, it works reasonably on iphone, but it is not ideal. On my last trip to Tokyo I saw this awesome translator in Yodobashi camera store and now regret not getting it as it was real time and really quick and smooth. I will look for it during the May trip. i think its name was Pocketalk, but I am not 100% on that. Hope this helps.

        • Wait, it’s primary school to say “bad wheels” and “bit the dust” a dozen times per broadcast? Less frequently he’ll throw in some solid insight like, “He better not lose if he wants to win!” Hiro is unwatchable. GSH is ok-ish if i want to wait that long for a low-res production on a glitchy player, and I do like Murray.

  13. Just going to spitball a little anger and gratitude.
    First, there is no moral high ground by the supposed legal owners of the broadcasting rights and furthermore not every eye watching must be squeezed monetarily. I am highly skeptical it actually makes sense financially and seriously doubt a cost-benefits analysis has been investigated regarding online and international viewers. More likely we are looking acts of unimaginative bullying and pig-headed sense of desired hegemony.
    I commend those who share their passion for the sport, skirt the so-called rules and allow for international fans to enjoy the sport in real time or near real time, especially the big three mentioned multiple times above. Betcha research would show their channels have had a major impact in growing and sustaining the intl. fan base. I hope you all can continue without too much interference but if not, can find ways to keep the Power jumping in fits until it wisely moves on to important issues. The NSK et al. need to wise up and offer an unconditional peace treaty as well as some sincere gratitude as those three have been completely honorable with their coverage of sumo.


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