First, let’s start with some background facts.
- In March 2018, Takanohana filed a written accusation with the Cabinet Office, regarding the NSK’s handling of the Takanoiwa/Harumafuji incident. He withdrew the accusation once the Takayoshitoshi incident occurred.
- Just before the board elections earlier this year, Shikoroyama beya and Minato beya declared independence from the Tokitsukaze ichimon, joining no other. Following the board elections, Tatsunami broke away from the Takanohana ichimon, again, joining no other. Takanohana then asked to remove his name from his own ichimon following the Takayoshitoshi incident. This was followed by him withdrawing from the ichimon completely, and the ichimon being dissolved, leaving the remaining members, “the Onomatsu group”, unaffiliated with any ichimon. In this state of affairs, the NSK board convened in July and made a decision that it would be mandatory for each oyakata to join one of the five remaining ichimon, and the deadline for this was set for the NSK board’s regular meeting on the 27th of September. At the time of writing, the only heya still unaffiliated is Takanohana beya.
- Takanohana holds an “ichidai toshiyori myoseki”. That is, he holds the right to be a toshiyori (what we usually call oyakata) under his own shikona, but only for the duration of his membership in the NSK. Upon resignation, he loses the right and cannot leave it to another or rent it out as the regular toshiyori can. This means that Takanohana beya ceases to exist upon his resignation, with the most probable outcome being that the deshi are absorbed into another heya.
Takanohana Press Conference
After all the news outlets informed us earlier that Takanohana handed in his resignation papers (“taishoku todoke”), Takanohana opened his press conference by correcting them and saying that he handed in “retirement papers” (“intai todoke” – the same “intai” as when wrestlers or other athletes finish their active careers and move on to a new career path).
He followed this by explaining that the reason for his retirement is that he received a letter from the NSK stating that they found the letter of accusation he sent to the Cabinet Office (and withdrew) to be groundless. He said that tangible and intangible pressure was made on him to acknowledge that it was groundless, and that he was told that he can’t continue as oyakata and can’t join an ichimon – which is now mandatory – unless he does so. He said that he cannot bend the truth and say that his accusation was groundless when he believes that it wasn’t, and that therefore he has decided to resign, feeling that continuing as-is will put his deshi in a position where they cannot concentrate on their sumo.
Together with his retirement paper, he also filed a request to have his deshi and other members of his heya (tokoyama, sewanin) move to Chiganoura beya. He said that years ago he had made a pact with Chiganoura oyakata to take over his deshi if anything happened to him.
He said that the heya, which is also his home, contains a dohyo, and he intends to continue with a life connected to the dohyo. When asked by reporters whether this means he will start his own sumo organization, he said that he has “no such intention at this time”. He later explained that he wants to teach sumo to children, preparing them for entrance into professional sumo.
When asked whether the fact that he is holding the meeting in a law firm means that he was going to litigate against the NSK, he denied it and said he wants to avoid any pressure or tension from hitting his deshi.
Asked whether there is a possibility of him remaining with the NSK should the latter refuse to accept his resignation, he said there was none.
The head of the public relations department of the NSK, Shibatayama oyakata, responded to the retirement announcement and the accusations.
He pointed out that to break ties with the NSK, a resignation letter (“taishoku todoke”) is required, and that they received a retirement request (“intai todoke”), and even though the meaning is taken to be the same, it does not fulfill the requirement of the rules. Once the resignation letter is properly handed, they will debate whether to accept it or not.
Further on the technical details, he pointed out that the request to transfer the members of the heya to Chiganoura beya has not been signed by Chiganoura oyakata. It will need his seal before it can be considered.
Referring to Takanohana’s claims, he said that the claim that Takanohana could not enter an ichimon unless he conceded the falsehood of his “letter of accusation” has no basis in reality. Furthermore, the claim that if he does not join an ichimon he cannot continue as oyakata is false. He went on to explain the reasons for the decision about joining an ichimon. The NSK is a public incorporation, and therefore has to keep all monetary affairs transparent. There are monies – subsidies and management fees – that are distributed between the heya, and this is done through the ichimon. With many heya unattached to ichimon, it becomes difficult to properly distribute those monies, and the process becomes opaque. The NSK is currently on a mission to improve its governance, and for this reason, too, a unanimous decision was made to require that the oyakata sort themselves into the remaining ichimon.
However, pointed out Shibatayama, there was no decision as yet as to what would be done with heya which did not belong to ichimon by the deadline. In fact, this was left to be discussed in the NSK meeting on the 27 which is why the deadline was set at that time. In any case, the foreseeable short term decision would likely be giving the still-unattached heya some additional time to further negotiate joining one.
In addition to Shibatayama oyakata, Onomatsu oyakata, the head of the Shimpan department, also spoke to the press. Onomatsu has been Takanohana’s boss since the most recent reshuffle of jobs in the NSK (following the elections), but he was also a member of his now deceased ichimon and a former supporter. He said that he tried to convince Takanohana again and again, for some time now, as two people who work together, to join one of the ichimon – “and raise the youngsters there” – but to no avail. He said he put his soul into this, and that he did not want to lose Takanohana. When asked, he said that the “letter of accusation” was never mentioned during those persuasion attempts.
Takanohana’s brother, the former Wakanohana, initially reacted to the news with “What, he could not find a single ichimon who will accept him”? Later, after the press conference, he more diplomatically said that it’s a sad decision, and as an older brother, he is worried what will become of his (estranged) little brother.
Demon Kakka, with his usual no-nonsense attitude, said he does not see, from the contents of the “letter of accusation” where the contention lies, and that it seems the two sides simply can’t sit together face to face and work it out. He urged the two sides not to betray the fans, and to find a way for Takanohana not to end up quitting.
Associates of Chiganoura oyakata say that he received Takanohana’s request to take in his deshi by telephone, at noon, right before Takanohana handed in his “retirement papers”, and was bewildered by it. “It was a one-sided phone call”, pointed the associates.