Abi and Gokushindo Survive, For Now

A massive thank you, Herouth, for diving into the news sources and cutting to the chase. In short, the Abi saga, and his career, is not over — yet.

The Kyokai is holding onto Abi’s resignation. They have decided to punish him quite severely with a three tournament suspension and 50% cut in pay. He will have to accept the punishment, pledge in writing to not break the rules or cause further trouble, and he will also be required to move back into Shikoroyama-beya so he will be under direct supervision.

Save me Jebus

Gokushindo has been revealed to be the lower-ranked wrestler who accompanied Abi. He has been suspended for two tournaments. We have also learned that Abi had *many* excursions to the “night business” which contravened the Kyokai’s rules. This was not a couple of times but a pattern of behavior which he then attempted to cover up.

A key question that comes out of this is, will there be any changes to the strict rules the NSK imposed to prevent a COVID outbreak? Abi was joined on his outings by supporters. Despite Abi’s punishment, one would doubt that the supporter’s backing will be turned away. However, he finally may have the “out” that he needed to turn down the supporter as now, his career apparently hangs in the balance.

In a sense, was Abi going out to hostess clubs or was Abi the host? And what happens when you get your favorite host fired? Would the backer continue to be a supporter when Abi’s career is over? Or would he move on to another wrestler? With Abi now grounded, will the supporter need to find a good night out somewhere else?

Fans provide key financial backing to wrestlers, stables, and the Kyokai. We have seen how the end of Jungyo, cancelling and curtailing of tournaments, and severing of contact with the public has impacted the Kyokai. They fought to hold the March and July tournaments. They needed to hold the July tournament as much as we needed to see it. But they had to do it safely. Let’s hope we can all find some sort of balance.

In closing, I apologize, I’m not full of answers today; I’m full of more questions. The question that will be answered first, and likely in the coming days, is “will Abi accept this?” As Leonid reported, at least Shikoroyama-oyakata can celebrate Oki’s rise to the salaried ranks. He may be heyagashira soon.

43 thoughts on “Abi and Gokushindo Survive, For Now

  1. Remember that gossip column that got the gory details of where exactly Abi has been going? It also included an oyakata who said “If Hakuho is turning down engagements with backers, so can Abi”.

    In short, supporter engagements are not an excuse.

    • Hakuho’s also in a position where he can lose backers and still be fine. Is Abi? (Sincere question–the supporters angle is one about which I know little.)

      • I think he can. Most backers are sensible. And it’s not as if his salary depends on it. Frankly, the whole idea of backers still expecting rikishi to entertain them despite the rules seems ludicrous to me.

  2. And this is why I love this blog: you went into some details that Twitter threads really don’t lend themselves to, such as the role the “supporter” may have played in all of this.

    My initial “gut” reaction is that they may be thinking that Abi’s behavior could well get him in trouble *outside* of sumo as much as in it, *especially going against guidance for covid.* (I’m aware the “business” was open legally, but that still doesn’t make it a good idea.) Lying about one’s behavior to one’s employer is also a good way to get in trouble in *any* job. I do think some of the oyakata see themselves as “fatherly” figures to their deshi, (the reaction of Harumafuji’s oyakata during his intai announcement is a prime example,) and while I don’t know if Abi’s oyakata is specifically in that camp, mayhap some of them view this as trying to correct a wayward “son.” (Or Abi just brings in too danged much money for the NSK to walk away from that when they’re already hurting so much financially…)

    I just hope that, when he falls out of the salaried ranks, he and his wife are set up well enough that she’ll still have somewhere to live, especially if her family lives far from the heya and that’s less of an option… If Abi and his wife become parents in the interim, the punishment honestly becomes harsher, IMHO, because it’s going to be much harder on Mrs. Abi if he’s not around =-\

    • It should be noted that sumo wives don’t really expect the father to be around much.

      In Japan in general family roles are still traditional. Papa is a breadwinner, Mama is in charge of child rearing, education, and usually the house budget as well. Many fathers work late and see very little of their children, and – something that surprises many western men – don’t even have a say in choices of education and the like.

      (Of course, this is not global, there are many families that don’t match this description, etc.)

      But sumo wrestlers are almost like Persephone. During the basho in Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka, they are away from home and live in the heya’s temporary lodgings. Then there’s Jungyo, taking up about four additional months.

      I don’t know if Mrs. Horikiri has grasped that situation, yet, as I don’t know what level of intelligence a woman who picked Abi as a husband may have. But she’d have to make do.

      What’s more problematic is the source of income. So now for 5 months she still has half a sekitori’s salary to live on. After that, she’ll have to rely on her own resources. Maybe she can ask that guy who took her husband to a hostess club and paid for his drinks.

      • “I don’t know if Mrs. Horikiri has grasped that situation, yet, as I don’t know what level of intelligence a woman who picked Abi as a husband may have. But she’d have to make do.”
        This is a poor comment, are you not permitted to criticise on Tachiai.org? Have the courage to to not have this deleted.

        • Sure you can. I welcome critiques, criticism and debate. I felt your last barb in the previous comment went over a line. It was my decision and if you’d like to discuss it, and want further explanation, feel free to drop me a line. I will respond. (andrew.martin@tachiaitimes.com)

      • >>I don’t know if Mrs. Horikiri has grasped that situation, yet, as I don’t know what level of intelligence a woman who picked Abi as a husband may have.

        Should not have laughed as hard at this as I did, but here we are.

    • In some ways, Abi’s wife already has a child. A really big one, with nice shiko and very poor judgment.

  3. I initially thought that Abi’s offense was “just” going out to clubs a couple of times. But it turns out he
    did that multiple times and lied about it. I think the punishment is reasonable. Abi now has the choice to
    take his medicine and fight his way back to Makuuchi or quit Sumo. He also has to live apart from his recent wife. I wonder what he will decide. Bur Rikishi who drop out don’t have great job choices.

  4. What will this do to his rank? I assume he’ll be near the bottom of makuuchi for September, then juryo for November, and makushita for January. Will he bottom out mid makushita then? Will he still be on the banzuke for all of those tournaments?

    • Out of salaried status for sure, though admittedly some of “How far?” depends on other wrestlers, too; same way as how a good record in the Juryo joi doesn’t guarantee promotion to the top division.

    • Yes, he’ll be on the banzuke if he doesn’t retire. I have him at M13-M14 for September. 0-0-15 there would result in something like J8-J11 in November, followed by Ms6-Ms11 in January, and bottoming out in the Ms42-Ms51 range in March when he’d be allowed back on the dohyo.

      • …after which it would could take him as little as two tournaments to return to juryo and another two to get back in the top division by Kyushu 2021. It’s not as though he’s seriously injured so you would expect him to pull it off IF he stays focused and committed: but that’s an awfully big “IF”.

    • I think we can make an educated guess based on what Ura went through.

      Ura drop from M4 to M16 to J11 to Ms10 in 3 tournaments following injury. So your guess may not be too far off.

      He remains a rikishi so he will still be on the banzuke for sure.

  5. Just to put things in order:

    Abi’s punishment is 3 basho suspension and 50% salary cut for 5 months.

    Remaining in sumo conditional to:

    1. Accepting the punishment
    2. Written acknowledgement that any further breach would cause his intai papers to be accepted.
    3. Moving back to the heya.

    Shikoroyama oyakata’s punishment:

    20% salary cut for 6 months.

    Gokushindo’s punishment:

    2 basho suspension

    Nishikido oyakata’s punishment:

    reprimand

  6. Sumo is probably better off letting him go. With all that has been disclosed now, I don’t see much hope. Pretty easy to regret your actions once you have been caught.

      • Yes. Many of them are pretty tame where Hooters would be more risqué as the women are well dressed. Others get quite a bit skimpier and seedier. I don’t think it’s ever been suggested it was anything more scandalous than a hostess club.

  7. A fair punishment. Abi can now decide if he wants to knuckle under and commit to regaining his place in the top division, or decide that sumo is no longer the career for him. Hopefully the current restrictions on the wrestlers can be eased up, too, so they can socialise and let off steam in more appropriate ways.

  8. I’m glad that Abi wasn’t kicked out, but I can’t help but feel that justice is not dealt evenly. Ōsunaarashi was kicked out for driving without a license (even though he wasn’t intentionally endangering anybody since he knew how to drive) and Harumafuji’s forced retirement seemed a bit harsh. Abi’s infraction could have potentially caused much more harm than Ōsunaarashi’s and Harumafuji’s. Perhaps the JSA deep down knew that entertaining wealthy supporters is part a sekitori’s job. Nevertheless, if I were Ōsunaarashi right now, I’d be thinking double standard. I wonder how much the fact that Abi is a popular wrestler factored in the JSA’s decision.

    • I feel the punishment was appropriate but also agree that it gives Abi the choice of whether to carry on, something that wasn’t afforded to Osunarashi and others. Would the punishment be the same if it was, say, Aoiyama who had committed the offence (foreign and not particularly popular)?

      • It’s hard to compare scandals since the details are always so different. In this case, if it had been a normal year, Abi going to a hostess club with a supporter likely wouldn’t register as a scandal at all. I’m surprised he’s getting a second chance given the cover-up, moreso than the actual “crime”.

    • Wasn’t Osunaarashi kicked out for his involvement in a traffic accident where he left the scene, switched places with his wife, and tried to blame it on her?

      • I believe so. He was gone right before I started following sumo, but my husband and I watched all the Kintanayama videos that we could find to stave off withdrawal between bashos, and he seemed to be rougher than he needed to be. He had a nasty move at the Tachiai with his forearm/elbow under the chin. Not illegal I know, but he seemed to take it too far. Also a big shover at the end of the bout.

        • I had just wanted to point out, though, it wasn’t as simple as driving without a license. Driving is something rikishi are not permitted to do, even in normal times.

    • I have not seen a positive test result. Matsugane oyakata tested positive today (PCR), according to a press release from the Kyokai

    • He had a couple of antigen tests that were negative. In any case by now (their last excursion was July 24), if they did have it, by now it would probably have hit the point where somebody who was in contact with them developed symptoms and tested positive. So I guess they got lucky and just caught the common cold.

  9. It would be nice if Abi used this time in his career wilderness to develop some alternative fighting techniques. Perhaps it finally will wake him up to realize his potential.

  10. Since both rikishi caught up in this are Kakuryu’s former tsukebito, I can’t help but wonder what his thoughts are on their behavior. Not that we will ever hear him address it, I’d imagine, but I’m curious nonetheless. He’s got to be so disappointed. From what I gather from the sempai/kouhai system in Japan, he likely feels some measure of responsibility for not giving them proper instruction (despite that this is entirely their failing, and not remotely his). If I were a rikishi- particularly one who is, or could rise to be in makuuchi- I would not want to have a yokozuna unhappy with me for dumbassery.

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