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.