Takanohana Resignation In Detail

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

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.

NSK Response

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.

Third-party Commentaries

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.

41 thoughts on “Takanohana Resignation In Detail

      • It’s funny because all I did was point out that poor Takanohana is being picked on when all he did was send 1 medical report to the police and another much more serious report to the sumo council. Now maybe Takanoiwa is a super quick healer and between the reports to the council and then the police his health dramatically got better but it looks like he lied got caught, got punished and didn’t like it so he is taking his ball and going home. Although it appears that he’s selling his home so maybe that’s a bad analogy.
        Also I didn’t mention anything about how he got his heya in the first place, nor about his family life or lack there of and that was your response and you think that I’m a no nothing fan boy!

  1. Interesting. I would have assumed he had at least taken a little bit better care of his rikishi. Making a last minute late night call … doesn’t show a lot of responsibility.

  2. No matter what one may feel regarding his Sumo politics, losing a living legend such as Tahanohana cannot be seen as anything but a huge loss for Sumo.

    • I believe Demon Kakka shares your view. He believes no Sumo fan would call these news “happy” (though the comments here on Tachiai would tell him otherwise). The question is how you keep around someone who seems bent on refusing any team work whatsoever.

      • Exactly what I’m thinking. He doesn’t seem to be able to work as part of a team and by now it seems he is living in his own alternate reality. Not all great soccer players are made to become great coaches or managers … the same seems to be true here.

      • I think the readership slant here comes from the fact that we weren’t raised during the magical Takanohana era. We’re not tied to the natsukashii feelings, the nostalgia and romanticism.

        Takanohana stood up for his deshi and went hard after Harumafuji. I love the horse, but it should never proceed to physical violence. I didn’t really have an argument against Takanohana in that regard. We Americans also can’t get a “holier-than-thou” attitude about violence, either. At the time, I posted a video of these Georgia Tech football players’ fight. That video just showed the KO. This video gives more back story and I think it relates to the continuing scandals sumo has faced.

        These guys are raised as aggressive people. They fight. We drill aggression into them to the point that it actually rewires their brains (CTE). But Takanoiwa couldn’t fight back. Against a Yokozuna? That was one-sided. I would side with Takanohana but I did think he went too far when it sounded like Takanoiwa and Harumafuji buried the hatchet. When it sounded like they had moved on, like these GT football players, I think he could have pulled back. What was done was done and perhaps Harumafuji could be rehabilitated. But he wanted bigger change and he wanted to make an example of Harumafuji. However, as this world seems to love irony, the next beating scandal involved his own deshi and the victim retired. Takanohana no longer had his high horse.

        It is unfortunate if Takanohana can no longer have a role in the sport. This may be a way that he can follow Baruto’s example break into showbiz or politics?

        • Probably the Harumafuji thing good have been handled differently. To the outside those sumo guys put themselves on such a high horse morally, where in reality they really don’t sit. My little disagreement with the Harumafuji scandal is, that I think in reallity things like that happen at least every now and then and picking especially him out seemed a bit haphazardly. However obviously such things shouldn’t happen.
          I think the problem is more the way Takanohana played that. I never felt it was about Takanoiwa. That’s what is wrong with it. That the next scandal involves his own guy is only bitter ironic.
          For some reason he had an agenda against Isegahama and thats why he went for it. It’s not about changing the environment for young rikishi. At least that is how I received it.

          • I generally agree with you. But I think his target was less Isegahama and more Hakuho. I think he was hoping Hakuho would be entangled as an accomplice (not merely “failing to prevent” but actively participating), or perjured. That didn’t work out, because Hakuho is a master of dancing on the edges, not just on the dohyo.

        • I think what first bothered me about it was that there seemed to be a lot of confusion and conflicting stories about how badly he was hurt, although that may not have been all Takanohana’s doing. What gets to me me most is that Takanohana to my eye is already in show business, and always seems to be playing a role. He doesn’t seem real to me.

    • I would actually argue that keeping this ‘living legend’ around has been damaging to sumo and that losing him is a huge positive. From everything I’ve read about Takanohana it would appear that his only concern is himself and that he does nothing for the good of sumo in general or his rikishi.

  3. Nikkan Sports is reporting that Takanohana Beya is already being listed by a real estate company as available for rent for commercial uses. The realtor says that the building is ready to be converted into an office building or a storage facility within two weeks.

    Needless to say, this contradicts Takanohana’s statement in the press conference that he wanted to hold onto the Heya and keep the practice dohyo intact. Turns out he had already decided to let go of the building.

    Only God knows why he told such a pointless lie, but it’s ironic given the fact that his defenders claim that his only fault is that he’s too morally rigid and is incapable of telling a lie. No amount of evidence of his (unsuccessful) Machiavellian backroom maneuverings seems to convince them that their hero may be less than forthright, so I imagine they will rationalize this outright lie as well.

    The sad part is that the fate of his deshi is still fluid, as the heya has still not been extinguished and their transfer to another heya has not been granted. But apparently Takanohana is exerting some time pressure for everyone to move out. What a guy.

    • “Only God knows why he told such a pointless lie”

      Was he lying? l think he may no longer have any grip on reality, thus it isn’t possible for him to lie.

      • Definitely something to consider seriously. Andy’s CTE comment above prompted a lookup on Wikipedia about CTE: “Symptoms of CTE, which occur in four stages, generally appear 8 to 10 years after an athlete experiences repetitive mild traumatic brain injuries… symptoms include memory loss, social instability, impulsive behavior, and poor judgment.”

  4. When I was just a little boy
    My father said to me
    “Come here and learn the lesson
    Of the lovely lemon tree.”

    “My son, it’s most important,”
    My father said to me,
    “To put your faith in what you feel
    And not in what you see”.

    Lemon tree, very pretty
    And the lemon flower is sweet
    But the fruit of the poor lemon
    Is a thing one cannot eat.

    It’s true for all people, but especially for Japanese with their tate-mae and honne, and doubly so for Takanohana oyakata. Judge him by what he does, not by what he says. His words are sweet, his deeds are sour. He says he cares about his deshi, and cries a river. He throws them away like used cigarette butts. He says he wants change and reform – but there is no difference between his heya and any of the others, let alone any change coming from his long service in the board. He says he wants to keep his dohyo – he goes and sells the building.

  5. Around late 2002, the September Aki basho, I remember watching Takanohana do battle over the course of 15 days, and it was excited and awesome to watch this man come back from injury and compete at a high level. Yes, I heard about him, seen Internet video clippings here and there, but this was my first time seeing him in ACTION, and he didn’t disappoint! Unfortunately, the start of the January basho 2003 would see him retired with nagging injuries, and so, he would hang it up after winning 22 yushos.

    There is no denying his tremendous contributions to being a Grand Sumo Champion. He is immortal in the record books. Sadly, the way that he had chosen to retired from being the head honcho of his heya is going to be remembered for a very, very long time. What an ugly mess. From what I have read, seen and heard, his actions are contradictory and have affected others on such a soulful level. I liked what he has done in the ring, but not so much outside of it. I can only judged from my view. From my perspective. We all are not perfect, but it would’ve been nice for him to treat his young charges with more dignity and respect that he has shown so far.

    I have read many solid comments from the site that Andy and Bruce have built — and we can largely agree or disagree when it comes to ideas on whether Takanohana leaving is going to bring about a change, some reforming, a bit of revamping, maybe a reorganizing, a tad of transforming, or perhaps evolution to this spiritual-fused sport. I think it needs — to be CAREFUL. There has been a scandal the last few years, in some form or another, and it would be a damn shame if this kind of nonsense keeps happening. Hopefully the chatter will shift to speculation on the next November Emperor’s Cup winner and the Takanohana uproar would have muted some.

  6. I have to wonder if he’s upset that harumafujis intai shiki and book are selling so well? It’s suspicious timing. I doubt if it’s the only reason but maybe some of his core supporters are losing interest and he’s trying to pick support up again. (Outside the kyokai)

  7. 22 championships, 4 undefeated, 4 consecutive, 701 wins in the upper division, 80 wins in a calendar year – twice, 49 appearances as yokozuna… (thank you wikipedia).

    The accident of history – that Asa and Hakuho came along so soon afterwards – shouldn’t diminish his accomplishments in the ring. But maybe it causes them to fade sooner.

    Guess, I’m just trying to remember the positives this morning.

  8. So here’s my belated ten sen worth/ crackpot theory. I think that Wakanohana was nearest the mark. I think that when Takanohana was told than he needed to move his stable to an established ichimon he was rather hoping, perhaps even expecting an invitation or two. Didn’t happen. He may have extended a tentative feeler himself, through intermediaries, but there was no way that he was going to go (metaphorically) knocking on doors and begging for admittance; he’s got way too much pride for that. He therefore decided to save face by “resigning” before his stable was dissolved from under him.

    By the way, I notice that NHK news reports have been translating “ichimon” as “clan” which seems appropriate. Maybe “The Five Families” would be even better, as this saga seems less like a soap opera and more “The Godfather Parts I & II” but with a bit more subtlety when it comes to taking people out.

    • “Clash of Clans, Sumo Edition” 😂

      I thought so from the get-go. He couldn’t find an ichimon that would take an oyakata they can’t count on to vote for their candidate in the next board elections. And who is a general pain… below the mawashi knot.

      But Onomatsu oyakata says that there was actually an ichimon that was negotiating with him, and was about to make the final decision, and that he was disappointed that Takanohana did not wait for that decision before he handed in his resignation retirement.

      So there was actually somebody magnanimous enough. Twitter argued about who it could be. Some said Isegahama (which I don’t think makes sense because Takanohana would refuse even considering working together with Hakuho, so it would not get to the point of “negotiation”).

      • I guess, being newer to sumo, that I don’t quite understand Takanohana’s beef with Hakuho. Sounds like there is history though. Is there any way to get the short version of events?

        • I’m not really sure. Actually, I heard that Hakuho showed much respect for the man, being a Dai-Yokozuna, and when Takanohana became Jungyo-cho he said it would be great receiving guidance from a Dai-Yokozuna etc., but Takanohana did not return the feelings and ignored Hakuho completely.

          My own speculation is that this has to do with yaocho. Takanohana is known to be very strict about this, which is a fine thing. In the great Yaocho days of the ’80s and early ’90s, the Futagoyama (the heya that belonged to Takanohana’s father, and later became Takanohana beya) guys were considered “clean” (“gachinko”) – that was the general culture of that heya. Gambling, sure. But not yaocho.

          And it so happens that Hakuho was involved in one of the biggest yaocho scandals before 2011. The story is that the former Miyagino oyakata, a guy who only got the heya because he married the late master’s daughter, bragged to his mistress (or a hooker, I heard two versions) that he bribed several wrestlers – including Asashoryu – into doing yaocho for Hakuho’s first attempt at a Yokozuna run, which ultimately failed, at Nagoya 2006. There was never proof that there was actual yaocho involved, or if there was, that Hakuho was aware of it, but there was, unfortunately, proof that the oyakata said he paid them, with exact sums and all, in the form of a recording made by said mistress. This cost the oyakata his kabu (he was thrown out of the NSK and Miyagino beya was transferred back to his predecessor who is was the man who recruited Hakuho in the first place, the current Miyagino oyakata).

          Anyway, as I said, no proof, but Takanohana must have thought that there is no smoke without fire, and that if the oyakata said Hakuho won by yaocho, then Hakuho is a dirty Yokozuna.

          So that’s my theory as to why he hates him that much. But I’m also new in this business, and I could be missing crucial history.

          • Ah, that would explain a lot. I came into sumo after the match fixing scandal, so I missed a lot of that drama. Sounds like I might need to do some homework, and learn more about that period, since we’re still feeling the reverberations of that upheaval.

            Thank you so much for the detailed answer!

            • i had many years of sumo drought as i didn’t have access to anything that i have now! so i’m with you Elizabeth, i’m only just finding out about the yaocho scandals and the reverberations.

            • The good side of the match fixing scandal was that they cancelled a honbasho in Tokyo and opened it to the public. My wife got tickets, bada bing, bada boom…Tachiai. I had watched sumo before but live was a totally different experience, even from the upper deck of Kokugikan.

      • P.S. Come to think of it, you know that Isegahama oyakata’s nickname (even by his fans) is “Kumicho”? That is, Yakuza Boss?

        • Well the reason for that is that he looks like the most prototypical kumicho of all. Just look at that face. No real yakuza boss or even actor playing a yakuza boss has ever been more spot on as a kumicho as goold old Isegahama.

          Doesn’t talk or act like much of a kumicho though!

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