Sumo by Paolo Patrizi

May 10, 2012

This series starts with a great description: It’s the only sport where being obese is encouraged. That is probably pretty close to the case, but Japan-based photographer Paolo Patrizi's series is so much more than just documenting Sumo wrestling. It uncovers a bit of the myth, and puts a face to the behind-the-scenes life of a sumo wrestler, and their odd place in popular culture.

Here is Paolo's statement on his Sumo series:

Racked by scandal, can Japan's most traditional sport keep up with the times? Apparently, gambling and organized crime have become as entrenched in sumo wrestling culture as topknots and obesity.

Police investigated allegations of match fixing in which 13 senior wrestlers have been implicated. It follows another scandal over illegal gambling last year which saw live television coverage of the sport dropped by national broadcaster NHK.

Dozens of sumo wrestlers and their managers have admitted to betting on baseball games, mah jong, cards, and golf through gambling rings organized by the Japanese mafia. The Yakuza allegedly take a even more hands-on approach: sponsoring wrestlers and even positioning themselves in front-row seats at matches to communicate with their members in prison.

Sumo has its origins in religious rites and wrestlers are expected to observe a strict code of behavior.