Takanoiwa retires

Takanoiwa with Chiganoura oyakata in retirement press conference

As previously reported, Takanoiwa has decided to hand in his retirement forms.

On the previous night, he had a talk with his new stablemaster, Chiganoura oyakata. The stablemaster tried to dissuade him from retiring, saying “You can still gambarize. There is still a lot that you can do. Let’s gambarize!” – but Takanoiwa’s mind was already made up. The head of the NSK board, Hakkaku, also asked him if he was sure this was the path he wanted to follow. Again, his mind was made up.

The NSK has therefore accepted his resignation. In a press conference earlier today, Takanoiwa expressed his apologies to his family, his stablemaster and okamisan, the rikishi, supporters and fans, as well as to his tsukebito.

A short Q&A session followed this announcement:

Q: Describe your current state of mind.

A: I feel deep responsibility for what I have done.

Q: When did you decide to retire?

A: Yesterday night.

Q: Have you spoken to your tsukebito?

A: Yes, I have.

Q: Have you weighed any options other than retiring?

A: Yes, but the feeling that I had to take responsibility and retire was the strongest.

Q: Only a year ago you were in the position of a victim.

A: This is a weakness of my own attitude.

Q: Have you learned anything from Sumo?

A: I learned how to put effort into hard work.

Q: What is the strongest memory you have from your life in sumo?

A: There are many memories, but I will remember sweating it together with my mates in practice sessions.

Q: If the gods of sumo turned back time, what time would you want to go back to?

A: I would go back to being a new recruit.

(Mostly based on Nikkan Sports)

So the three people most closely involved in the Harumafuji incident – Harumafuji, Takanoiwa and Takanohana – are all out of the sumo world.

A question sumo fans repeatedly ask is whether this will affect the banzuke for Hatsu. The answer is – based on past experience – it won’t. The banzuke will remain as it is, with either a blank or Takanoiwa’s name appearing in whatever position they have set for him. Changes to the banzuke after it has already been set down (and written out by the gyoji) are rare.

Loose ends:

  • Stablemasters are usually punished for their deshi’s misdeeds. It’s still unclear how Chiganoura will be sanctioned, especially given that he has been in charge of Takanoiwa for only a very short time.
  • What will the NSK decide to do about Takanoiwa’s retirement funds? In the Harumafuji case, some part of them has been docked.

I will keep my eye on this story for a while, to see how Takataisho, the victim of this violent incident, is holding up in the sumo world. If you recall, the victim of Takayoshitoshi has retired from sumo a short while after the incident. I hope Chiganoura and his okamisan will be able to provide better protection for the young wrestler.

I will also watch out for word from the Imperial Household. Last year, following the cluster of scandals, the Emperor decided not to hold his yearly sumo viewing. The 2019 Hatsu basho is his last opportunity to view sumo as an emperor, and it would be sad if he missed out on that as well.

15 thoughts on “Takanoiwa retires

  1. While I felt he should be severely punished for what he did, for example with a suspension, I find it regrettable that he’s gone as far as retirement.

    I’m sure he’s feeling extreme guilt having just joined a new stable to let them down so soon afterwards. And after the public sympathy given to him after the Haramafuji incident. No doubt this was all a big factor.

    • I think committing the same crime that he was the victim of previously is the biggest issue here. Especially considering how much of a fuss Takanohana created about it.

    • I don’t think suspension would have been sufficient. First, it has been ineffective in the cases of Takayoshitoshi and Hikarugenji, who got suspended, and – what? Takayoshitoshi is on his way back to being a sekitori (and one wonders who the poor fellas who will serve as his tsukebito are). Apparently, the lesson learned is that being violent can cause your career to be temporarily dampened.

      Second, the NSK is currently in a massive effort to eradicate these pesky violent scandals. Some people may sneer and say the efforts are insincere. There certainly are conservative oyakata who believe that sparing the rod spoils the deshi. But the thing is that the NSK can’t afford to let the situation stay as it is – its employees repeatedly break the law, and seem oblivious to the fact that this behavior stopped being considered acceptable by the general public. And so they had a general questioning of all the rikishi, and statistics drawn, and workshops given. And then suddenly a high-ranking rikishi goes and does it again, and one who, above everybody else, should have known better. They couldn’t just let him off like Takayoshitoshi at this point.

      (Besides, I believe the only reason that Takayoshitoshi ended up with a suspension rather than request to retire is that Takanohana was willing to drop his complaint to the Cabinet Office for this – a political deal rather than real justice).

      • I think that a suspension would have been enough of a punishment. He hit that guy, but at least to me it looked like a modest beating without any serious injury (it’s still bad). To end a career over that, unless you are a repeat offender, is very harsh.
        a 2 basho suspension would probably mean that he drops out of Sekitori ranks, at 3 he will be at the bottom of Makushita, so you have some leeway there. There is also pay cut as potential punishment ind combination/addition to a suspension. And not sure, if its possible, but revoking the privilege of Tsukebitos temporarily could also be a possible measure.

  2. While I am not a fan of Takanoiwa’s in any way, his retirement is not something I take delight in. I have grave misgivings about how he will make a living going forward, and I fear he may have irreparably ruined his life this week.

    Most rikishi who retire have something to fall back on, with the support of their old stablemasters or their hometown. Even disgraced rikishi have the alternative of a pro wrestling career as long as they retain some kind of public charisma.

    Takanoiwa, however, seemingly has nowhere to go. He is reviled in his native Mongolia, where he is blamed for Harumafuji’s retirement, compounded by his failed lawsuit against Harumafuji. His Japanese supporters have cut bait after he went from violence victim to perpetrator. His present oyakata does not hold a lot of sway, and his former oyakata has never shown an inclination to care about anyone but himself and his own interests. Takanoiwa has little to no surviving family members to fall back on. He has no Japanese citizenship or kabu. Maybe he has saved up some money, but it’s doubtful that he has saved up enough to secure himself financially. He has no training or experience in anything other than sumo.

    There is a real chance that he will have to figure out a way to survive in ostracism in his native land. He has so far not shown a whole lot of signs of self-sufficiency or adaptability. His next decades could be dark ones indeed, which would be a real shame for a once bright prospect.

    My hope is that some of the fellow Mongolian rikishi and ex-rikishi find the goodness in their hearts to forgive him and reach out to him. It would make for a nice redemption story if Harumafuji himself extended a helping hand. Takanoiwa is going to need all the support that he can get. I’m worried he may not get it, and I hope I’m proved wrong.

    • A few thoughts.

      First, I think Harumafuji reaching out at this point will be perceived as a spit in the face of Takataisho.

      Second, the former Yokozuna is not exactly well-established himself. Admittedly he has had some five years of Yokozuna income. But he also has kids to support. He has spoken vaguely about traveling the world, but I haven’t seen any plan of his for something productive, and I supposed the aforesaid travel would be more of a soul-search or pilgrimage thing. There is that school which he built, but that was an expenditure, not an investment. I think he will be eating into his own savings for a while until he settles down properly.

      Also, I’m not sure your perception of Mongolian society is entirely correct. I gather it is a very tribal society – where people belong to clans and think along clan lines. I gather that there is a long going “Asashoryu vs. Kyokushuzan” tribal war. Harumafuji belongs to the Asashoryu camp, which in turn has connections with the president of Mongolia. Takanoiwa is aligned with Kyokushuzan. Hakuho is a complicated case (isn’t he always?) – as he was recruited by Kyokushuzan but aligned himself with Harumafuji (and transitively, Asashoryu) in that Tottori incident.

      Be that as it may, my point is that the fact that Takanoiwa’s family was attacked in Mongolia doesn’t mean that he is ostracized there. If Kyokushuzan is not ostracized, then he isn’t, either. Remember, Kyokushuzan has been involved both in ratting on Asashoryu regarding that silly football match that got him suspended, and in the imaginary “beer bottle” and other stories intended to besmirch Harumafuji during the Tottori incident. He got dismissed from his position as a representative of Mongolia by the president, courtesy of Asashoryu. And yet he is alive and kicking and still sending youngsters to Sumo stables in Japan. Takanoiwa’s brothers and sister were trolled by members of Clan Asashoryu, but that doesn’t mean that Clan Kyokushuzan is not there to give him a job.

      • My point is that public sentiment in Mongolia is completely against him. While the powers that be may be engaged in a Cold War of sorts, the average Mongolian views Harumafuji as a hero and Takanohana as the devil, with Takanoiwa falling under the Takanohana umbrella. It wasn’t just that Asashoryu’s thugs did something – it’s that the criticism of the lawsuit was almost universal in Mongolia. Given this situation, what good is Takanoiwa to Kyokushuzan anyway? Who exactly, short of a charitable heart, would extend a hand?

        • Again, I don’t believe there is anything like “The Average Mongolian”. I believe this is a wrong point of view. There is a “The average member of clan A”, and “The average member of clan B”. He may be unpopular with clan A, but still popular with clan B. That criticism in Mongolia was universal? How do you know that? Takanoiwa never said that. He said his family was under attack, he did not say that it was a universal attack. It doesn’t need to be. It’s quite enough if 30% of the population calls your family and threatens it, and the fact that the other 70% doesn’t do anything about it is unsurprising. But that 70% can and will give you a job if you are one of them.

          • Of course there is a diversity of opinions and viewpoints in any society. Casting a wide blanket over every Mongolian is reductive. I would argue that the average Mongolian doesn’t belong in either Clan A or Clan B. However, the fact remains that Mongolian newspaper polls at the time of the Harumafuji scandal showed overwhelming support for Harumafuji. Mongolian media, pretty much across the board, treats Harumafuji as a wronged hero. Harumafuji’s charity and charisma garners him support beyond petty tribalism. Nothing is ever universal, but there is such a thing as public sentiment.

            As to the harassment that Takanoiwa’s family received, I would suggest that it’s not the phone calls from thugs that really hurts, but rather the rejection of your neighbors and the loss of friendships. In many East Asian societies, ostracism is employed as a weapon for control. Being thrust out of your own community is a tremendously painful experience. Clearly, the community did not rally around Takanoiwa’s family to protect him. It’s social ostracism that hammers down the nails that stick up, not the work of a few tough guys.

            That being said, the point remains that I worry for his future, and I am hoping for the best. I hope people do rally around him, and that he is extended an opportunity to make a living with dignity.

            • Sigh. I must add that I find it hard to empathize with someone about whom the following testimonies were made in a civil court (the complaint was against Takanohana and the NSK): That he used to chase other rikishi around shooting at them with an air gun. That he used to beat up other rikishi at will. That he broke a beer crate on Takatenryu’s head, and so on. Then there was that rumor about beating up a young Mongolian rikishi during Jungyo because he didn’t like the time the youngster took to shower. In short – not a person I would hire if I cared for my other workers. And yes, none of these things were proven beyond reasonable doubt – but it makes me loath to empathize.

              • Certainly he has always come across as a knucklehead, which gives me further misgivings about how his life will turn out. Just because I don’t like him (and certainly rooted against him more often than not) doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about his life turning into a sad tale. Let’s hope there are some redemption stories to come, in more ways than one.

  3. That will be largely up to him in my opinion. If he chooses to take this as a wake-up call and realizes that he needs to live by the same rules as everybody else, he can turn it around. (This is of course assuming what we have heard is correct, which may or may not be the case.) Regardless, nobody has ever moved forward successfully with a victim mentality, no matter what has happened. And, like Herouth, I don’t see him as a very credible or sympathetic victim. In addition to his alleged misbehavior, he has had many opportunities denied to others. I wish him well on this journey.

  4. Almost a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions! He sounds like he’s in a very dark place of his own making. Am hoping both Takataisho and Takanoiwa get through this

  5. I want to think that Takanoiwa maybe did some soul-searching and realized that his retirement might even do more than Harumafuji’s to convey the message that violence is unacceptable. I’m glad to read that he’ll probably be alright in Mongolia, though.


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