Decisions in the Naruto beya scandal

A few days ago, we were informed of repeated abuse of a rikishi at Naruto beya. Naruto oyakata may be known to many of you as the former Kotooshu.

The details of the story were as follows: A 20 year old sandanme rikishi was harassing a minor ototo-deshi (more recent member of the heya). At first he hit him with the corner of a smartphone, accusing him of not doing his work properly. After that, over the period between September 2018 and January 2019, he chose to “punish” the victim by applying a choking technique borrowed from Judo on 10 separate occasions. He also ordered another adult rikishi (with the assistance of one other, a minor) to perform that same technique on the victim. This resulted in the victim losing consciousness at least once.

The victim eventually reported this to the heya’s hired manager, who in turn reported it to Naruto oyakata. He immediately reported it to the Compliance Committee, and suspended the perpetrator through Hatsu basho. That committee made its report, and today the NSK board held a special meeting and made decisions based on this report.

The perpetrator is without a doubt Sumidagawa – the only Sandanme rikishi from that heya who was kyujo in Hatsu basho. Although the standard set for violence perpetrated by rikishi Makushita or below is merely a one basho suspension, with possibility for warnings etc. in more serious cases, the committee noted the malicious intent and repeated nature of this case, and instead decided to recommend his intai. Naruto oyakata has already presented the intai documents and they have been accepted. The NSK board approved the decision of the compliance committee in this regard.

The (former) Sumidagawa. His Twitter profile boasts his Judo experience.

The oyakata himself was censured for being absent from the heya and not watching over his deshi properly. He will be docked 10 percent of his salary for the next three months. In response, the heya announced that due to its transient state both the oyakata and the manager have, indeed, been absent from the heya frequently, and that now they intend to hire an additional manager and keep two on a permanent basis.

The rikishi who was commanded by Sumidagawa to choke the victim will be given a warning, and the minor accomplice will receive “guidance”. The victim himself, as well as his guardians (he is a minor so he has either parents or other legal guardians), decided not to involve the police in this issue and leave it to the NSK. He also expressed his wish to continue doing sumo at Naruto beya.

Sources: Nikkan Sports, Sponichi

Update: A more extended report on Nikkan Sports reveals that Sumidagawa did not settle for just choking the victim and making another to do the same, but also took videos and made fun of the victim’s struggle for breath following the strangling. Also, he started extorting money from him on threat of choking him again.

Also, the “absences” mentioned about seem to refer to the fact that he was not living on premises. He has now handed in a plan to the Compliance Committee, whereupon in April the heya will be moved to a permanent location, which will include the residence of the oyakata and the okami-san. He will continue to hand in periodical progress reports as to the implementation of this plan as well as others for preventing the recurrence of violence in his heya.

For those of you who want to speculate as to who the victim, the adult accomplice and the minor accomplice are, here is a list of the Naruto beya rikishi. Note that in heya with no sekitori, hierarchy is determined by seniority. That is, the order in which they joined the heya. I believe it’s unlikely that Sumidagawa would “command” any of his ani-deshi (members who joined before him) to do anything. Also note that the age of majority in Japan is 20.

Shikona/NameHatsu dohyo (join date)Birth date
Oshozan2016.03May 2000
Honma2017.03May 2001
Torakio2017.05December 1996
Sumidagawa2017.07November 1998
Anzai2018.03August 2002
Kawamura2018.05September 2001
Mukaida2018.05November 1998
Oju2018.05February 1996

(The heya also has another minor member – yobidashi Kenta)

8 thoughts on “Decisions in the Naruto beya scandal

  1. It’s all very well for the Kyokai to say that he needs to spend more time at the heya, but most of his absences would presumably be caused by either a) working directly for the kyokai or b) meeting with rich supporters to help fund his heya.

    Perhaps there needs to be a change in organisational structure within the Kyokai to allow Oyakata to spend more time with their recruits. Or provide them with more money to hire more heya-managers.

    • All of this, though at the end of the day, he shouldn’t have to tell his deshi, “Hey, don’t choke people!” I wonder what red flags may have been raised beforehand, like were there any warning signs that could’ve prevented this clown from being recruited in the first place?

      • Maybe if they had questioned the other members of the sumo club in his school they would have sniffed something. But sometimes things like this don’t turn up until the clown in question gets into a position of power.

    • The heya is relatively new and is located in a temporary place, which is separate from the Oyakata’s own home. He submitted a plan to the compliance committee saying that the heya will move to a permanent location in April, and that location will include lodgings for the oyakata and okami-san as well. I’m guessing the manager also doesn’t live on premises.

  2. Excellent reporting, Herouth. Like everyone here, I have been reading multiple accounts on this — and it is just ugly, really. Once this sad affair happen and the news broke, all forms of media latched onto this developing story — and everyone involved are deeply affected, especially the poor kid. The above comments were solid, but here’s another one: As I have mentioned before (here on the site), Naruto beya is one of my favorite heya that I followed regularly, and it is awful to hear this. Not only did the DUMBASS ruined his short-lived sumo career, but may have left the young victim with emotional/psychological scars for the rest of his life. I pray that, perhaps, he’s getting some counseling at this point — and not told to just “manned-up” and go about the rigorous life of sumo like nothing happen. God, I truly hope not! Now that would be a real tragedy.

  3. The reality is that this is physical and emotional abuse of a minor/s. As such the police should be involved and perhaps that will deter people further from this behaviour. Unfortunately, we have seen examples recently of child abuse in the context of sport schools/training in other sports. I don,t think dealing with this stuff internally-only helps because that does not change the culture and it encourages silence. Chocking a person who is under your tutelage to the point of losing consciousness is pretty serious.
    As much as we want new stables to suceed, perhaps being clear with stables about what they may face in terms of legal action and not just administrative consequences would be a better strategy.
    Thanks Tachi ai team and Herouth for your excellent reporting! Your definetely the ichiban webpage as regards to sumo!!

    • As far as I can tell, though, Japanese law is such that if nobody files a “victim report”, the police can’t get involved.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.