As was reported in the lead-up to September’s Grand Sumo Tournament, Takanofuji is at the center of yet another bullying incident. As the scandal broke before the tournament, he was suspended and did not compete. Based on the findings from the resulting investigation, and as reported by Mainichi Shimbun, the Nippon Sumo Kyokai recommended retirement and Takanofuji’s stable master, Chiganoura-oyakata, has also requested Takanofuji retire.
The incident that brought all of this to a head occurred on August 31. Takanofuji was angered by his Jonidan-ranked attendant’s poor attitude, and according to the Mainichi report, he didn’t like that the junior wrestler bathed first. As a result, Takanofuji punched the victim in the forehead creating a lump on his head and resulting in pain that lasted a couple of days.
The victim ran away from the stable with two fellow wrestlers. Why two others? The three wrestlers were given nicknames of “Niwatori,” “Hiyoko,” and “Jidori” by Takanofuji and the allegations are that they were habitually berated. They were told that rather than saying “Hai,” they should cluck like chickens (say, “ko-ke”).
This is Takanofuji’s second offense, thus the recommendation of retirement. Though he admitted the facts of the Aug. 31 incident, Takanofuji claims he did not hit the tsukebito hard. He held a press conference today, flanked by his attorney, where he stated that he does not intend to resign, asking for a lighter punishment and stronger regulation of the sport from the Japan Sports Agency, a Government Agency under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Asahi Shimbun is reporting that if he will not resign, the Kyokai will take disciplinary measures which may be a forced retirement.
The reporting on that last point is rather vague so I will try to learn what they mean. It sounded like there is a range of punishment…but to me I don’t know how much range of disciplinary “measures” there can be between “voluntary retirement” and “forced retirement”. Are fines and criminal proceedings a possible outcome? Can Chiganoura evict his unruly deshi or can he only apply pressure to encourage him to leave? I do not know but hope to find answers. The physical bullying seems to be the tip of the iceberg and this story will be around for a while, unfortunately.
Given the seriousness of the allegations, it’s understandable that there are very strong opinions. As many of my Twitter followers are aware of my little Twitter rant, I do want to note my firm belief in due process and uncovering the facts. I had a lot of questions before I reported this today; many of those have been answered as I read more but I still do have many other questions. I trust their process to deliver a just punishment in the handling of the case.