Update on Nakagawa Scandal

A special board meeting has been held today, July 13th, which covered a lot of ground. One of the main subjects on the menu was the Nakagawa scandal.

Some more details were revealed about the nature of Nakagawa oyakata’s deeds. It turns out the abuse was not merely verbal. There were isolated acts of violence toward three of the 9 rikishi in the heya, accompanied by repeated daily verbal abuse, not limited to the practice grounds.

  • In February, rikishi A was carrying food sloppily. The oyakata accompanied his admonition not to spill the food with a punch to the middle of his face.
  • During Haru basho last March, rikishi B was supposed to handle goods that were sent to the heya’s lodging and did it incorrectly or inappropriately. He was sitting cross-legged, when the oyakata kicked him (once) in the back and added a slap.
  • The same rikishi B nodded off while riding a taxi back to the heya’s lodging on another occasion during that same basho. The oyakata got angry, and once at the lodging, made him sit seiza, and in addition to admonishing him, added three kicks to his stomach and two punches to his chest.
  • Last year, rikishi C came back from degeiko, and the oyakata did not like the way his obi was tied, and told him off, embellishing the admonition with a punch to his temple.

From January through March, the oyakata repeatedly verbally abused those three rikishi, on and off the practice grounds.

So it may come as a surprise to some of our readers, knowing that the NSK has a newly-minted strict no-violence policy, holding coaching staff to a high degree of responsibility, that the punishment Nakagawa oyakata receives was a demotion of two ranks.

Chairman Hakkaku explained that the perpetrator did not use any implements, there were no injuries, and since the victims accepted the oyakata’s apology and did not seek heavy punishment, the board decided to settle for this demotion.

The heya, however, has been disbanded. Thoroughly.


The usual procedure when a heya closes is to move everybody together. It has happened in the past that a heya was split, but it’s rather unusual for the members to be cast over three different ichimon, no more than two in the same place (three, if you count the oyakata).

Some background details:

  • Kyokusoten is Tamawashi’s brother-in-law, which explains the choice of Kataonami beya.
  • Kasugaryu and Haruhikari serve as Hakuho’s tsukebito. In fact, Kasugaryu also used to perform the bow twirling ceremony – a duty that usually falls to a Yokozuna’s tsukebito. It may seem strange that Tokitsukaze men serve a yokozuna from Isegahama ichimon, but their old heya – Kasugayama – used to belong to the Isegahama/Tatsunami ichimon. Well, now they are back.
  • Yoshizawa and Okunisato are twins. Yet they have been assigned to separate heya in different ichimon.
  • Kyokuyuko’s danpatsu-shiki was held yesterday at Nakagawa beya. He decided that Nakagawa will be his last master (most of the rikishi in the heya have been through three masters already).

Team Tachiai hopes that the former heya members will find their new heya welcoming and that their preparations for the basho next week will be minimally affected.

11 thoughts on “Update on Nakagawa Scandal

  1. Care to speculate what we can infer from the nature of the distribution of the rikishi, and their exact destinations, beyond the points you already make in the post?

    • I don’t know. There are lots of puzzlers here. Why not put Kasugaryu at Miyagino? Why split the twins?

      It certainly seems like the board saw the old Kasugayama bunch as a group of – I think the fashionable word is “agitators” – who needed to be split so as not to spoil their next heya.

  2. I know I often bring up finances despite no real evidence and purely based on speculation…but aside from some of those bizarre splits, I wonder if the broad dispersal was also done to lessen the financial impact to the new stables.

    • Hmm. Why would the finances of heya at Isegahama ichimon be better than the finances of heya at Tokitsukaze ichimon? If they can put a rikishi at Asahiyama beya, they can put him at Kagamiyama just the same, can’t they? Other than Hakuho’s two tsukebito and Kyokusoten’s family relations, there was no apparent reason for sending any rikishi ichimon-gai.

      It may be coincidental, but none of the rikishi have been transferred to the heya of an actual board member.

  3. Who do you think benefits the most in terms of opportunity at their new heya? Obviously Haruhikari and probably Okunisato?

    • The question is what potential they have, really. Haruhikari and Kasugaryu are 34 and 36 years old respectively. I hardly think their sumo has any future. Okunisato has been 10 years in sumo, most of them in Jonidan. So other than the young Yoshii and Sasazaki, I think the only one who is still young enough to develop is Kiyama. Tomozuna is not a bad heya.

      And who knows, maybe practicing with Tamawashi all day will finally bring Kyokusoten that one step further. He is still at a good age and a good position – though he would probably have done better to transfer to Michinoku. But well, it’s not just a professional consideration there.

  4. What comes as a surprise to me is that there are different ranks of oyakata. I never knew that. And he has been moved to Tokitsukaze. To do what?

    • To do all the things oyakata who do not own a heya do.

      There are 105 elder name licenses (toshiyori myoseki, often referred to as “kabu” – shares – though they are not shares in the financial sense.

      Currently 3 are vacant, which means there are 102 oyakata – but only 44 heya. However, every oyakata, just like rikishi, yobidashi, tokoyama, gyoji, sewanin and wakamonogashira, belongs to a heya, even if he doesn’t own it.

      So there are in fact many heya that have more than one oyakata. In Kasugano beya, for example, there are no less than 7 oyakata!

      The ranks are:

      rijicho – chairman
      riji – board member
      fuku-riji – deputy board member

      (the above are elected positions as well as rank)

      yakuin taigu iin – member with executive position
      iin – member
      shunin – senior
      iin taigu toshiyori – elder with member position
      toshiyori – elder
      sanyo – consultant (oyakata who reached the mandatory retirement age and were rehired at a lower salary)

      I think “iin” is the largest group.

      What do they do? assist with coaching and running the heya. But one must remember that they are, first and foremost, NSK employees. Each oyakata has a job and is assigned to one of the departments of the NSK – sometimes to more than one. You can see oyakata wearing blue jackets during the basho – checking tickets, handing pamphlets, doing guard duties, interacting with fans. And of course there is the prestigious shimpan department which creates the banzuke and the match lists, in addition to judging around the dohyo and in the video room.

      Nakagawa was “iin” and has been a shimpan and a member of the “coaching/guidance dissemination” department. I think I read somewhere you can’t be a shimpan if you’re not an iin, but I’m not sure. And I don’t think he is qualified to disseminate any guidance anymore. But I’m sure they will come up with something for him.


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