Almost 5,000 advanced sale tickets are unsold for the opening day, the most ever on the opening day of a tournament at the 11,000-seat Kokugikan since its opening in 1985.
Foreigners are being blamed for the slack ticket sales.
“The number of foreigners coming to booths to buy tickets has been extremely small,” Matsuchiyama Stablemaster, the JSA official responsible for ticket sales said, adding that the decline in foreign tourists coming to Japan since the March 11 disasters was a factor in slack response to the tournament.
Another stablemaster, who declined to be named, said a variety of reasons were keeping people away.
“A lot has been going on in sumo, like the match-fixing,” the stablemaster said, referring to a scandal that resulted in the cancellation of the grand tournament in March. ‘Besides, people are too busy dealing with the disasters to worry about sumo.”
Ryogoku Kokugikan is the heartland of sumo, Japan’s national sport that once vied with baseball, and in more recent years soccer, as the country’s most popular pastime. The sport’s popularity has waned dramatically over the past decade with the retirement of popular Japanese grapplers, dominance of foreign wrestlers and scandals including match-fixing, bullying and links to organized crime.