Just as the sumo world is trying to recuperate from last year’s Harumafuji scandal, and amidst our hopes for a 2018 free of scandals, the NSK announced yesterday that the tate-gyoji, Shikimori Inosuke the 40th, has sexually assaulted a junior gyoji in his teens while drunk.
The top two ranking gyoji in sumo are called “tate-gyoji”. They are the ones in charge of refereeing the Yokozuna bouts, and also participate in yokozuna dohyo-iri and consecrate the dohyo before honbasho.
Tate-gyoji use inherited names. The top rank is always “Kimura Shonosuke” (the order is the Japanese name order – last name first), and the secondary rank is “Shikimori Inosuke”. The last Shonosuke retired about two years ago, but Inosuke was not promoted to Shonosuke, following a series of misjudged bouts that cost him a suspension in 2015. This means that at the moment, Shikimori Inosuke the 40th is the only active tate-gyoji. Inosuke is a member of Miyagino beya, Hakuho’s stable.
The event itself took place on the evening of December 16th, while he was doing the jungyo. This was the night between the two events at Ginowan, Okinawa. During supper, the tate-gyoji imbibed large quantities of Awamori (a hard Okinawan liquor) and became thoroughly inebriated. A junior gyoji helped him get back to his hotel. The senior gyoji then proceeded to kiss the minor (in Japan, the age of majority is 20) on his lips several times and fondled his chest once.
Another member of the gyoji-kai, a Makuuchi gyoji, learned of this incident and reported it to the NSK. The crisis management committee opened investigation, verified the facts, and questioned Inosuke directly. He responded: “I was too heavily drunk, I have no recollection of what happened”, and “I have no interest in men, so I have no idea why I would do something like that.” However, he did not positively deny the act, and he has already apologized to the victim before the NSK was informed of the incident.
The victim, who was reportedly traumatized by the event, is not interested in filing a police report, nor does he wish the NSK to pursue the matter further. He only wanted an apology. However, in the wake of the previous scandal and the current public atmosphere, the NSK cannot let this matter go. They intend to convene a special meeting of the board and decide on Inosuke’s fate in the near future.
The head of the board, Hakkaku, did not mince his words: “It is deplorable that a man at the top position in the hierarchy would do something like that. The very act of drinking oneself beyond recollection is inappropriate. I have warned Inosuke in the past about his bad behavior when drinking.”
Today Miyagino oyakata made an apology for his heya’s gyoji.
Following a closed-doors keiko session, the stablemaster responded to the media and the press, saying “Being in a leadership position with respect to Inosuke, I deeply apologize for his deed. He has a history of bad drinking and was abstinent for a while, then started drinking again. I had warned him about it and all I can do now is request that he abstain from drinking again.”
When Hakuho came out of the heya was also accosted by the press, and responded somewhat in consternation: “He is not gay as far as I know, but he does love his liquor” before disappearing into the car on his way home.
Assuming the punishment that will be decided by the board involves either suspending or dismissing the tate-gyoji, this comes at a very inconvenient timing for the NSK, with honbasho starting in about a week. The tate-gyoji is supposed to accompany the Yokozuna in the Meiji-jingu dedication dohyo-iri, as well as consecrate the dohyo the day before shonichi, never mind presiding over the yokozuna/ozeki matches.
Shikimori Inosuke is 58 years old and his real name is Itsuo Nouchi.
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(The post is compiled from various Japanese sources, including Nikkan Sports, Sponichi, NHK and others).