England, the Other Land of Sumo

In its fight against physical prejudice, Croydon Council has decided yesterday to promote the practice of sumo in the city. Recent data have shown that 1 in 4 adults in England are currently obese, the highest rate in Europe, but the conclusion that the Council draws from this figure is quite stimulating. According to Ms Chesterfield, head of the Department of Health and Social Care, “Instead of letting underfed nations make us feel guilty, we should be proud of our first place. Obesity is not a shame but a claim to fame: it proves the exceptional adaptability of the English body to the demands of the food-processing industry’s free market. It’s up to us now to change our own representation of large people, and sumo can help us, by showing that being overweight is not incompatible with the practice of an elite sport.” The Council thus is launching a publicity campaign next autumn, “Fat Makes You Healthy,” sponsored by KFC, and on 1st October a Sumo Learning Centre – the first of this kind in the UK – will open its doors at the Arena. Boris Johnson is expected at the opening.

Promoting sumo indeed falls in the larger scope of strengthening links with Japan. “Japan and England have much in common,” Ms Chesterfield points out. “Both are peaceful islands threatened by a hostile continental power, there China, here the EU. Both also drive on the left, which makes a collision with each other unlikely.” However, developing effective synergies in the financial sector remains the main objective for both parties. For two years now, Japanese bankers have been very impressed by the spectacular results of British financial institutions, and on their side financiers from the City have a lot to learn from their counterparts from Tokyo. “After the bursting of its real estate market’s bubble in 1989, Japan was unable to pull out of the crisis for ten years, ‘the lost decade’ as we call it. Today, thanks to our overseas friends’ advice, we have great hopes of doing very much worse,” Ms Chesterfield adds. A delegation of Japanese investors, led by Yakayaka Yayamoto, the former CEO of Chiyoda Life, was received last week by Boris Johnson, well known in Tokyo as “the Tory samurai.” A dinner was held at City Hall, where the great chef Gordon Ramsay executed a delicious sushi and chips for the occasion.

Let’s return to Croydon: next Saturday, a free sumo exhibition is taking place in the Whitgift shopping centre. A plane specially chartered by McDonald, the sponsor of the event, will take ten famed rikishi from Kokonoe to Croydon. Throughout the afternoon, families could contemplate these gracious podgy bodies wrestling on the dohyō, and a workshop for tubby kids will be open to the brave. Ms Chesterfield is very enthusiast. “England is an extraordinary breeding ground for sumo talent, and future prospects are fantastic. At the speed it’s going, by 2050, 9 in 10 adults will be overweight or obese in this country, so sumo could quickly get very popular in the UK, among all social classes. I won’t be surprised if in the next decade the greatest rikishi speak with a cockney accent. And who knows if tomorrow the Royal Family won’t give up polo for sumo? The day is not far off when the horses won’t be able to bear too voluminous bodies any more. My dream is to organise, sometime, a Four Nations Championship – Japan, England, Scotland and Wales –, in which national stables will compete. There’s a good chance one of the three British teams will win the trophy. By the way, have you ever noticed that the kilt perfectly suits sumo?”

According to Council’s outlooks, by 2020 sumo could represent a turnover of £5 billion in England and could directly generate 20,000 jobs. It is high time that Croydon positioned itself on this up-and-coming market. As Manchester once was the city of football, in some years Croydon may be the city of sumo. Anyway, who can tell now that English people don’t have any idea how to come out of the crisis?

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