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As many aspects of old Japan remain in sumo, such as topknots, traditional dress, and ancient customs, professional sumo is more than just a sport; it's a living example of traditional Japanese culture.The wrestlers serve as cultural ambassadors when they take part in events overseas.
Instead of trying to harpoon whales in open water, now twenty or more boats would encircle a whale and make a racket, driving it towards the shallows into nets wielded by a second group of six boats.Blue whales, sei, Bryde's and sperm whales were however also taken when possible.Once ashore, the whale was quickly flensed and divided into its separate parts for various warehouses and further processing.During the 20th century, Japan was heavily involved in commercial whaling.This continued until the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling went into effect in 1986.However, in March 2014 the UN's International Court of Justice ruled that the Japanese whaling program, called "JARPA II", in the Southern Ocean, including inside the Australian Whale Sanctuary, was not in accordance with the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, and was not for scientific purposes, as it had claimed.
In December 2015, Japan went ahead with their whaling program, renamed "NEWREP-A".
For this reason, the organizers of sumo decided on a set of rules, including the creation of a list of 48 legal moves and the round ring that is still used today.
A system of stables was created to train wrestlers.
These hunts are a source of conflict between pro- and anti-whaling countries and organizations.
The UN's International Court of Justice, in addition to other Nations, scientists, and environmental organizations consider the Japanese research program to be unnecessary and lacking scientific merit, and describe it as a thinly disguised commercial whaling operation.
However, whaling remained entwined with ritual and unlike their contemporary European counterparts the early Japanese coastal whalers considered whales a valuable resource and did not over-exploit local stocks.