Update on Harumafuji Scandal: YDC, NSK special meetings and report.

Today has been a day full of news. The YDC held its special deliberation. The NSK board followed with its own, and as it turned out, Takanoiwa appeared from his genie’s lamp and testified to the crisis management committee.




Here is how things stood yesterday:

  • Harumafuji has handed in his resignation. He is no longer an employee of the NSK, but they do have to settle issues such as retirement money, retirement ceremony, etc.
  • Hakuho, and to a lesser degree Kakuryu, have been criticised for not stopping the violence in a timely fashion or preventing it from the start. Hakuho has also been criticised for his on and off-dohyo behavior in general. There was the matter of his matta protest, his yusho interview and “banzai”, and his style of sumo of late, frequently using harite and kachiage.
  • Takanohana has been waging a war against the NSK:
    • When he found out about the event, he did not report it to the NSK, only to the police.
    • He then refused to cooperate with the NSK’s crisis committee’s investigation, and allowed Takanoiwa to be interviewed only by the police. At first he said he will cooperate once the police investigation was over. Then once the prosecutor hands in a decision.
    • He also failed to produce a medical certificate for Takanoiwa’s absence from the fuyu Jungyo. The medical certificate for the basho was also questionable, as it seemed to have expired by the time the basho started.

Disciplinary measures as well as preventive measures were expected.

Takanoiwa makes an appearance

After the NSK crisis committee has already announced that they have “given up on interviewing Takanoiwa by the 20th” and that they will be handing in their report without his side being represented, and the NSK was hinting that they will be considering his punishment for the unsanctioned absence, Takanohana finally relented and released his deshi to speak to the committee on the night between the 19th and the 20th.

Here is Takanoiwa’s side of the story, as retold by the crisis committee representative in the press conference following today’s board meeting:

  • He only operated his smartphone after Hakuho’s lecture was over, and Hakuho and Harumafuji started talking about other things. He does not believe he did anything insulting or anything that justifies receiving an injury.
  • He felt demeaned by receiving a one-sided beating in front of other rikishi and the staff of his alma mater.
  • He only apologized to Harumafuji the next day because those same staff members advised him to do so. He himself did not feel it was merited.
  • Nevertheless, he says that he had no wish to see Harumafuji retire.
  • When asked why he lied to Takanohana at first and told him that he received his injury by falling down the stairs, he said that he didn’t want to cause an uproar, and that it was unmanly to tattle.

Further, Kagamiyama oyakata commented on Takanoiwa’s current state. Apparently, he is currently hospitalized, suffering from after-effects of the attack.

The YDC convenes, makes recommendations and deflects criticism

The YDC convened and discussed Yokozuna past and present:

  • Although Harumafuji already retired, they discussed the case as a precedent and decided that any such case in the future would merit an intai recommendation.
  • They recommended a severe reprimand to Hakuho and Kakuryu, for making light of their responsibility as Yokozuna to serve as examples, and to prevent any form of violence.
  • They also expressed a unanimous opinion that Takanohana’s behavior is unacceptable for an executive in any organization.
  • They also received many complaints about Hakuho’s “violent” style of fight these days, such as kachiage using a heavily bandaged elbow, or strong harite “for more than 10 bouts out of 15”. Adding that it was “not Yokozuna sumo, ugly, something we do not want to watch”.
  • When asked about their responsibility for the promotion of two Yokozuna who have retired due to scandal the head of the YDC responded that they have neither the ability nor the authority to conduct their own research into the candidates’ characters and have to ask the NSK members about that. Also, that they act on the request of the NSK.

The board convenes

Following the YDC’s meeting and recommendation, the board of the NSK also convened and made some decisions.

Hakkaku. Gave up three months’ salary.
  • For not having prevented the violence, being the most eminent NSK member present, Hakuho will be deducted his entire salary for the coming January, and half of his salary for February. This is estimated at ¥4,230,000.
  • Also for not having prevented the violence, Kakuryu will be deducted his entire salary for the coming January. This is estimated at ¥2,820,000.
  • There is a retirement sum awarded to retiring Oyakata, Yokozuna and Ozeki. Harumafuji will have some amount deducted from this retirement money, though the exact deduction has not been decided yet.
  • The head of the board, Hakkaku, decided to give up his own salary for the rest of his current stint. This means three months, until the next board elections. The sum is estimated at ¥1,448,000.
  • Isegahama oyakata has taken responsibility for the actions of his deshi, and handed in his own resignation from the board. He will therefore be demoted to yakuin-taigu-iin (executive member) instead of riji (director). (Note that he can be re-elected). Hakkaku added that Isegahama oyakata wished to resign already when Harumafuji resigned, but that he, as head of the board, asked him to postpone it until the investigation was over.
  • The board accepted the recommendation of the YDC to set a recommendation of retirement as the standard for any case of violence by rikishi at the top of the banzuke. They used the term “joi”, so this doesn’t apply only to Yokozuna.
  • The missing piece is Takanohana. The discussion of his part has been postponed to another meeting to be held on the 28th, together with the meeting of the board of trustees. “We will make a decision based on the explanation we will receive from Takanohana”, said Hakkaku.

Takanoiwa’s future

Kagamiyama oyakata said that in the board meeting, the board affirmed that they consider Takanoiwa as a victim of violence who should be protected by the NSK as a whole. He added that being kyujo from Kyushu puts Takanoiwa in Juryo on the next banzuke. However, should he need to continue his kyujo into Hatsu as well, considering the circumstances, allowances will be made as to his banzuke position.

Takanoiwa. Will get to keep his silk mawashi.

Specifically, provided that he supplies the appropriate medical certificate this time, the NSK will not allow his banzuke position for Haru to drop below Juryo.

Preventive measures

All of the above are disciplinary measures. How is such an occurrence to be prevented in the future? Here are some of the suggestions brought up by the crisis committee as well as the board meeting:

  • Declare a “Day of violence prevention”, to make sure that this scandal is not soon forgotten as the Tokitsukaze scandal has been.
  • Create a code of conduct that will be taught and referred to in all pertinent cases.
  • The NSK board will form a violence prevention committee that will include independent experts, to hand in recommendation (one source says) by the 28th as well.

The story of October 25th, retold

In a comment to my previous post about the interim report, I said that I expect the story of what happened on the fateful day in Tottori to change again only once – on December 20th, when the final report is handed.

Karaoke remote-control. May be used to zap away your career.

Truth be told, it did not change very drastically, but there are some interesting details surfacing. I’ll put parts that were not in the previous post in bold.

  • Dinner party. Present: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Takanoiwa, Ishiura, Ishiura’s father and other members of the Tottori Johoku high school, 13 people in total.
  • During the dinner party, which took about 3 hours, Hakuho took issue with something a friend of his told him that Takanoiwa said in September. Takanoiwa denied. Harumafuji defended him and Hakuho let the matter go. This whole exchange was in Mongolian, and the Japanese present did not know its contents.
  • The after party included most of those participating in the dinner party, at a lounge recommended by the high school staff. Beer was served in glasses, not in bottles. Hakuho lectured to Takanoiwa and Terunofuji about their daily conduct and that they should be thankful to their high school teachers. He also reproached Kakuryu for letting him do all the lecturing.
  • Takanoiwa, thinking that Hakuho has finished his lecture, started to play with his phone. Harumafuji saw that, got annoyed, and asked “Why are you playing with your phone when the dai-yokozuna is talking to you?”. This was apparently also in Mongolian. Takanoiwa first denied he was playing with it, then said “I got a LINE message”. Harumafuji asked “Is that important? Who is it from?”. Eventually Takanoiwa said “It’s from my girlfriend”.
  • Harumafuji hit him once, on the face.
  • Takanoiwa said “sorry”, but Harumafuji thought he was giving him a defiant stare. So he hit him on the head and face several times with his bare hands, asking “Why are you behaving like that? I was protecting you earlier! Are you trying to be smart with Yokozuna?“.
  • He picked up a bottle of Champagne and made as if he would beat Takanoiwa with it, but it slipped and fell without harming anybody.
  • Hakuho, watching Harumafuji, said aloud “Don’t use any objects”. As soon as Harumafuji started using the remote control, he stepped in to stop the beating and took Harumafuji outside the room.
  • Apparently it was several minutes from the beginning of the beating and its end, and over 10 but less than 20 slaps/punches delivered.
  • Harumafuji then returned to the room and demanded that Takanoiwa apologize, hitting him once or twice again with his bare hands. Takanoiwa said “I deeply apologize, I’ll be careful from now on”, so Harumafuji stopped.
  • Harumafuji also reprimanded kakuryu: “You are not guiding them properly”. Then he addressed Terunofuji: “You have no spirit when you do keiko. If you want to ask something, just talk to me!”. Terunofuji changed his sitting position to seiza and answered “We can’t say what we think. There is a wall between us”. Harumafuji retorted “You are the ones who created that wall!”, and proceeded to slap Terunofuji (lightly) once or twice. Terunofuji’s reply: “Thank you”.
  • Takanoiwa’s scalp was lacerated and bled. He also suffered an injury to his wrist.
  • When they left the lounge, Takanoiwa asked Ishiura “What did Harumafuji hit me with?”. Ishiura replied “I think with a beer bottle and remote control”. However, Ishiura did not see that with his own eyes.
  • Takanoiwa had his wound taken care of  the next day in a local infirmary, and initially told Takanohana that he fell down the stairs being drunk.

(Compiled from Nikkan Sports and Nikkei).


37 thoughts on “Update on Harumafuji Scandal: YDC, NSK special meetings and report.

  1. I do not for the life of me understand the comments about the harite or kachiage. It seems most of the rikishi use them quite regularly. They are not forbidden, Why on earth pick on your most successful rikishi for this? Why now? Why just him? That point seems to be highly biased

    • First, the fact that a move is legal doesn’t make it appropriate for a Yokozuna. The most well known example is the henka, which is basically supposed not to be used above Ozeki, and gets criticized pretty heavily when it is.

      The complaints seem to be about these moves beeing used very violently and very frequently.

      And… they were complaints from the public. They did not originate with the YDC. Now, there has been a serious public witch hunt against Hakuho ever since the Kyushu basho. It started from criticism against those matta, puss and banzai things. Then there was this TV station that filmed him indoors in the Jungyo wearing a Mongolian Team jersey (I think he got it from one of his country’s sports teams. This was years ago, and he has been wearing it forever without any criticism). This set fire through the more xenophobic parts of the Japanese public. Then it went in all kinds of directions. The issue with the harite and kachiage seems to originate with the former head of the Miyagino beya supporter club, an eighty-something guy who claims to remember Futabayama and Taiho as active Yokozuna, and said “Hakuho is not a Yokozuna” – citing those harite and kachiage. Then I suppose there was a grassroots effort to get complaints to the YDC about him, I suppose in an effort to get them to kick Hakuho out.

      The YDC chairman is mostly just quoting those complaints rather than passing his own judgement, it seems.

      • Thank you for explaining Herouth.

        I just generally don’t like seeing the anti-Hakuho movement because he has done so many positive things for the sport and I am a big fan of his. Not that any rikishi should ever be beyond reproach, of course.

      • I think your comments about the wish to kick him out are a bit too far fetching. Criticizing his all too frequent slaps and elbows many time is a criticism of all too frequent slaps and elbows and has no hidden xenophobic agendas.
        I personally don’t like them and I believe he would do be just as dominant without them.

        • The xenophobic part was the reaction to the “Mongolian Team” jersey. From there, negative reactions went in all kinds of directions, as I said, and only the “cleaner” ones got to the official press and to the YDC. I mean, it wouldn’t do at all to send a letter to the YDC saying “I want all Mongolian yokozuna out of my national sport!”. I doubt if anybody in the YDC would be quoting such messages to the press if they did arrive. But those messages were all over twitter.

          Other anti-Hakuho propaganda on Twitter included:

          1. Accusations of all three Mongolian Yokozuna of yaocho and collusion with Yakuza.

          2. Distribution of a picture showing a woman kissing Hakuho on the cheek, claiming she is his mistress. In Japan, extra-marital affairs are regarded as something that disqualifies you from public office (if it gets out, that is).

          3. Claiming that the reason he got into the first argument with Takanoiwa was that the latter would not participate in the grand Mongolian yaocho exchange scheme.

          4. Claiming that his own father has criticized him for his part and said to him that he is the one to blame for Harumafuji’s retirement. Now, this is a particularly vicious one, because Hakuho’s father has Alzheimer’s and is not really capable of grasping current affairs, and dragging him into the fray is really below low.

          Now, Hakuho has been using all kinds of ugly moves. Go through my comments in the past and you’ll see that I’m far from in love with his style – Neko damashi, dame oshi, henka. All of these are really beneath him. The thing is, his style has included a harite in the tachiai for a long time now. The timing of this criticism, surfacing in the middle of all of the above sewage, is what bothers me. This kind of provided everybody with a semi legitimate claim to send to the YDC. Why now?

          Now, personally, about those harite, I kind of thought, like that former Miyagino supporter, that they indicate weakness. But the thing is, doing a harite to the face and still managing to grab your opponent’s mawashi is more an indication of super speed than anything else. And those harite are pretty harmless, much better than those dame-oshi which serve no purpose, are dangerous, and are really, really ugly.

          • The Jungyo Newsreel highlighted quite well that Hakuho is highly appreciated and his accomplishments are kept i high regard. Just keep in mind his planed participation at the upcoming Olympics. I’m not blind to the criticism he gets. I agree part of that is due to his Mongolian origin, but my point is that not all criticism is because of that, great athletes, public personalities always have their critics (or haters to use a trendy word). The great Kaiō Hiroyuki himself got his fair share or criticism for injuring opponents with kotenage.
            I feel like your post gives too much space a a rather vocal but otherwise small minority and portray sumo fans as xenophobic bunch.
            Sometimes criticism has to be taken at face value, and they actually can mean what they mean. And I believe criticism of a yokozuna slapping and elbowing more that desired is a criticism of of a yokozuna slapping and elbowing more that desired.

  2. Solid reporting, Herouth. Like you, I have gone to different sources on this, trying to glean as much as humanly possible on this lingering, sad drama. Some really, truly stupid shit — pardon my french.

    I do agree with both you and Tom — there’s not only a witch hunt for Hakuho, but at this juncture — a obvious witch hunt for all things Mongolian. Sighhh…

    Hopefully by time 2018 rolls around, this troubling event will be some distance at the New Year Basho and we can get a strong, exciting tournament.

  3. Thank u so much for this detailed update- really appreciated from south of the equator ♥️🌏 Den

  4. Thank you Herouth! This whole episode is extremely depressing. I have the pictures from this year’s sumo calendar on my wall. It is hard to look at.

  5. There is no doubt about the reason they are doing this!They cannot wait to get rid of the Mongolians,ignoring the fact that left in the hands of the Japanese various boules de suif ,lilliputian wrestlers, Sumo is going to be really tedious!

  6. What a total and complete mess. People we like, people we admire and people respect have lost their job, their reputations, their health, and their money. What a shame. What a dreadful over-reaction by every person and every organization involved.The January tournament will be a very sad event indeed. The whole thing makes me dirty for some reason.

    • Over-reaction? Takanoiwa got beaten until he bled.

      I am glad that the violence is being acknowledged and I sincerely wish that the measures taken against it are successful, and are taken seriously.

      I’m sad that it was *this particular* act of violence that got picked up on. As I said before, I find it hard to blame Harumafuji. He’s probably been on the receiving end of this and worse several times while he was lower ranked and it’s always been treated as normal. It’s not his fault that he’s in an environment where violent reprimands are acceptable right up to the apparently random point where they aren’t.

      But something had to happen. I’m a bit torn up that it was my favourite Yokozuna, and one of my overall favourite Rikishi, who had his career ended by this. But I wouldn’t call it an over-reaction.

      • When I said ”over-reaction”, I am including Harumafuji. It was his over-reaction that precipitated this whole mess.

        • I understand that, and I agree with you. But I believe you were also including the YDC and the NSK in that statement. I don’t think their ejection of Harumafuji is an over-reaction at all considering he beat Takanoiwa bloody.

          • The thing is, that happens to Yoshikaze every tournament. These guys are trained to be violent to each other and given that context, I don’t find it surprising that Hakuho’s reaction was, “no objects”. I’ve posted on Twitter footage of a fight between two college football teammates from over the summer. It was recorded on cellphone and one knocked the other out. Discipline was handled internally and both played this season. To me, clear policies were needed BEFORE this happened and need to be followed regardless of the wrestler’s birthplace.

    • A good question, and one I hope to answer in the next few days. With the holiday season just around the corner, the life of a teacher gets pretty hectic this time of year. I’m planning on getting back on a more consistent posting schedule and crank out some articles once I go on winter break.

  7. Docking Hakuho and Kakuryu’s salary … one way to make your budget I guess. Unfair particularly to Hakuho, who actually did break up the fight.

    • He’s 黒マーク and should have bent space-time to keep the fight from happening in the first place. Being penalized for being too rough was just silly.

        • Hakuho, for the harite and elbowing. They’re legal, and like you said, “why now?”. He should come to hatsu wearing white gloves.

          • He wasn’t penalized for them. The issue was just brought up in the YDC deliberation. There were no practical recommendation following it.

            • In my “Law & Order: Jungyo” mind, I guess I’ve been bundling all of those as charges for which he was punished — when it sounds like they were evidence.

  8. A couple things make me really sad about this:

    1. The newly revealed comments between Terunofuji and Harumafuji. It shows a lack of mutual trust and respect between the yokozuna and the upper ranks which kindled the whole conflict. I can only ponder if foreigners who are forced to act according to Japanese cultural standards for their job often feel like they have to stifle their true thoughts and feelings. I hope Terunofuji has some friends at his side right now, along with Shunba.

    2. The rise in fan support for Takanohana in all this because his reckoning was delayed a week. I cannot make myself believe that that man truly has the best interests of his rikishi and the sport of sumo at heart.

    3. Takanoiwa remains an unrepentant jerk, even as a victim. All these lives impacted negatively because of your petty sniping at Hakuho and not ignoring LINE for a few minutes.

    4. Ishiura starting stupid rumors about the event. *facepalm*

    • Yes, the Terunofuji part really depressed me. My angle on this is not “the yokozuna and the upper ranks”, it’s more about Terunofuji and Harumafuji personally. I mean, clearly Harumafuji sees that Terunofuji’s sumo is in trouble. He wants to help. He asks “Why aren’t you coming to me for guidance?”. Terunofuji has enough courage to tell him that he is simply not approachable. What is Harumafuji doing? Trying to find out what the perceived block is? Smiling and trying to make himself more approachable? No, he says “nonsense” and… slaps the kid. For heaven’s sake. He slaps him to show that he is not unapproachable? Does Harumafuji educate his own kids that way? How many slaps did Terunofuji have to go through to learn to respond to those with “Thank you”? It’s mind boggling and makes me want to cry.

      A sumo heya is not like a basketball club. The relationship is not that of team mates. It’s a family structure, and this family seems to be dysfunctional. Terunofuji must be feeling rather lonely. I know that Aminishiki can still bring a smile to his face. I’m not sure what’s happening with Shunba, and why Terunofuji didn’t take him with him on the Jungyo.

      Terunofuji’s best friend in the sumo world is actually Takanoiwa. Those used to be seen together all the time in Jungyos, with or without Ichinojo (who is younger, but comes from the same school).

      …which of course puts him in a really impossible situation. Basically, choose between your heya and your best friend. I wouldn’t want to be in his setta right now.

      Now, speaking about jerks, I would like to express my (probably unpopular) opinion that to me, Hakuho comes out as a real jerk in this story. The proselytising. Both he and Haruma getting on Kakuryu’s case for not joining in their little educational charade and basically belittling their fellow Yokozuna in front of the lower-ranked rikishi.

      And then, that “Do not use objects”?

      That’s clearly saying to Harumafuji “Go on beating the man up, just don’t get yourself in jail, will ya?”

      I don’t envy Enho or anybody else who is going to be a deshi under that guy, sorry. Hakuho may be full of brilliant sumo and a good crowd pleaser, but I wouldn’t want him anywhere near anybody I love.

      • Finding out that poor Terunofuji was slapped and harshly treated left a bitter taste in my mouth.,he is just a big kid.I wish him all the best!

      • Now that picture is what I really want sumo to be… A bunch of guys going out and competing hard in the ring, but then leaving conflict behind on their off hours. Smiling and enjoying their youth and not being beaten for their words and actions. No one is a lost cause, so I hope that Takanoiwa and Terunofuji won’t be estranged after all this.

        The fact that Teruno got slapped for his response is ridiculous. Sumo elders seem to think that emotional abuse and belittlement of their juniors is ok, but I don’t. It’s even tougher cause they are all young men who have been taught to swallow their feelings and not reveal the pain they are in, whether physical or emotional.

        I maintain that as long as this type of miserable social structure is supported in most sumo heya, then physical altercations will keep happening behind the scenes. It’s quite similar to the sexual harrassment revelations in the US this year – until enough people speak up and call for change, the abuse will continue.

        I am actually with you on Hakuho. I don’t really like his attitude in general, and he doesn’t come off well in his private behavior in this series of events. Then you add on the basho temper tantrums, and to me I’d rather just have Kakuryu healthy and kicking his butt. I’d personally feel safer around Asashoryu than Hakuho. :P

  9. I’m writing a Japanese history book, and recently I’ve been doing research about the Byakkotai and General Nogi’s Juumonji…so my initial reaction is “glad they’ve mellowed out.”

  10. The treatment of Hakuho is starting to resemble a relationship break-up in which one’s soon-to-be-ex dredges up every minor indiscretion.

    Instead of “You forgot my sister’s birthday”, “you never clean the toilet”, “you used my toothbrush”, “I’m vegetarian,not vegan”, “why did you delete your browsing history?”, “who is Barbara?” it’s “you shove people off the platform”, “you smack guys with a forearm”, “you lack dignity”, “you wore a Mongolian shirt”, “why didnt you break the fight up sooner?”.

    • Doesn’t this committee realize Hakuho is the only healthy superstar they have these days? Why pick at him like this? It’s like they want him gone. Ridiculous.

      • The YDC is especially designed not to take commercial considerations into account. At least theoretically. There are commentators who believe they have avoided a recommendation of suspension because they knew that Hatsu basho was important.

        From their point of view, this event has been a devastating injury to the one thing that the committee is supposed to protect: the image and perception of Yokozuna. Remember, this is Japan, not the USA, and it’s a matter of heritage. You can’t compare it to incidents of athlete violence we are used to in the west. Yokozuna, once they take on the rope, are supposed to lead an exemplary life.

        If you think that’s a ridiculous demand, consider that there are only four Yokozuna at most at any given time, and that they make an explicit oath and are supposed to be aware of having that obligation from the moment they accept the rank. Is it too much to expect four grown-up men to maintain a good public image for a few years?

        Hakuho is a bit of an anomaly in this respect because he became Yokozuna very young, and has stayed at the rank for very long. This means he was probably not mature enough when he made his vow, and has had a long time to make mistakes and to be corrupted by his own power. It is in fact a wonder that he managed not to get himself into deeper troubles before.

        Bottom line, you shouldn’t measure Yokozuna by the standards you apply to western athletes.


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