Asanoyama absent from day 12 due to COVID guideline violations

Asanoyama (from NSK’s IG)

Day 11 has been a very exciting day in Grand Sumo. Unfortunately, not exactly for the reasons we would hope for.

During the second half of the Makuuchi matches, a Japanese tabloid dropped a bomb shell. It revealed that Ozeki Asanoyama has been repeatedly visiting a specific hostess club, including a visit on April 30 and one on May 7th, which was aborted due to the rag’s car being detected.

The dates are significant because the NSK COVID regulations require rikishi to refrain from unnecessary outings and mixing with people who are not heya members during the time between the publishing of the banzuke and senshuraku. The banzuke was published on April 26th. So while a young man going to a seedy club, under normal circumstances, is his own business, this was definitely a breach of regulations, similar to the one perpetrated by Abi and the former Gokushindo.

Apparently, the compliance committee has heard the accusation earlier than the publication, and questioned the Ozeki about it on May 18th. He said that “the accusation was groundless”, and this is what Shibatayama, the association’s spokesperson, said to the accredited press when they came to ask about this story.

This meant that Asanoyama continued with his day of Sumo as usual.

But the published scoop was not something to be brushed aside so easily. The item includes details such as the specific club, the times of the visits, a description of Asanoyama wearing a hood over his head, and ordering champagne to celebrate one of the hostesses who was quitting the job. And of course a couple of photographs of him in a taxi next to the club and then later next to the heya, fuzzy and ambiguous though they were.

At this point the Toyama man was questioned again, reconsidered his reply and admitted to “part of the story”. He will be kyujo as of day 12, giving Takayasu the freebie win.

It’s expected that he will face a severe punishment, possibly more severe than Abi’s. While in his favor stands the fact that he has no prior offenses, the rank of Ozeki carries a greater burden of responsibility. And then there is lying in his initial questioning. It’s not just a breach of regulations, it’s also a breach of trust.

Unfortunately, this was not the only scandal of the day, though the other two have yet to be acknowledged by the NSK or the mainstream media, so should be taken with much caution:

  • Yesterday it has been published that Asahiyama beya’s okami-san has been verbally abusing the heya’s deshi, causing some of them to retire (including their best prospect so far, Kirameki, though the article doesn’t name him).
  • (This tabloid is even less credible) – The reason Ryuden has been kyujo is an affair he has had with a woman for three years, including her getting pregnant and him demanding that she abort the fetus, and attempting to silence her with money. It is not clear in what way this has been a violation of the COVID regulations. The tabloid got Ryuden’s attorney’s comment: “The matter is under investigation of the NSK compliance committee so we cannot comment”.

26 thoughts on “Asanoyama absent from day 12 due to COVID guideline violations

  1. Can’t blame the woman, with that twerk, even I’d get pregnant by ryuden and I’m a guy.

    But seriously, convincing someone to abort their child is absolute garbage. I hope this is not true.

    As for asanoyama. Who would have thought? He is the last guy in the Banzuke that I would have imagined to do that sort of thing. Can’t say I’m angry at him, dude is having fun but covid makes things complicated. I wonder where he will end up once his punishment ends.

      • Wow. The hopeless romantic in me hopes that only “part of the story” is true and he was celebrating his fiancée’s (or sister’s or sister-in-law’s) last day on the job. Dumb as it was, I really hope there’s something redeemable there. The annoying thing is that hostess clubs have a clear reputation in the West as basically brothels.

        • The article speaks of a Kagurazaka Kyabakura. A kyabukura isn’t a brothel, not even close. Kagurazaka is also not exactly a shady area. He still broke the covid regulations and thereby endangered his heya mates and other rikishi.

      • I really hope that doesn’t happen but if it does, understandable considering he is an ozeki and I guess it makes sense more is expected from him than Abi, therefore his punishment should be more severe.

    • All of this. Asanoyama always struck me as the sekitori who would, could rikishi drive, tap the brake if he was going 1km/h over the speed limit! I’m curious about whom else he was with, because this seems so out of character. What happened to Abi should have more than proven that being Japanese wouldn’t save him 😕

      The Ryuden thing, though…if that’s true, I will have ZERO respect for the man as a man or as a human being at that point. I pray it’s false!

  2. That resounding thud that I heard recently must have been the Scandal Meter heartily resetting to zero. Ye Gods.

  3. I swear I was only kidding when I previously stated I thought Ryuden was auditioning for a couple of girlfriends on the side with those moves! Who knew!

    I guess we know a little bit about what’s been bothering Asanoyama!?

  4. Firstly, thank you for writing this up. I have been an Asanoyama fan for a good long time, and I am heartbroken that he is probably on the way out now. I can’t see them allowing an Ozeki to flaunt the rules and not face the axe. My guess is that he is intai soon, and never spoken of again.

    Out of all the current Ozeki, I thought he had the most potential to be a solid Yokozuna that could serve as the bridge between the Hakuho era and what comes next. The loss for the future of sumo cannot be assessed right now, but it’s not good.

    I think we know now what has been distracting the head of the Freshman cohort this May, he was waiting for this shoe to drop. If he scampered away from his club, he must of known it was going to happen, and that would be enough to distract him from his sumo.

    On more practical matters, we face a prospect of losing 2 Ozeki this basho, a complete surprise to myself. At least Terunofuji won’t have a 15-0 yusho to press the case of convert him to a Yokozuna before July.

    • Nobody was going to press for Terunofuji becoming Yokozuna in May. This was never on the table.

      Asanoyama, I believe, has been distracted ever since he became Ozeki, or at least shortly afterwards. Something was off with his sumo, he was out of the yusho race by the end of the first week each time. And now we know what it was – going out drinking and returning after 1am is not conductive to a good sporting life. Tired and hung over, his morning practice would probably not be very effective.

    • Just watched NHK’s recap; that is the face and the mien of a man who knows he’s likely fighting his last bout. Heartbreaking. And it didn’t have to be this way…

    • They’re trying their best to keep Shodai at Ozeki for the upcoming basho. It looks like he will only have to face one other Ozeki now with the Asanoyama torikumi reshuffle. He’s facing Takarafuji on day 13, who he’s owned, instead of any other credible Ozeki-level competition. The match scheduling this basho has really been all over the place, for both good and bad.

    • I’m shocked and low key sad about all this. I’ve been jokingly cursing myself for spotting 2 Ozeki in the making and then watching them rise and falter (Takayasu and Asanoyama) but I didn’t see this particular twist coming – who would? A looked really glum this basho, now we know why.
      Am I right in remembering that Abi wanted to quit and they refused him? Looking at this, part of me wonders whether Asanoyama subconsciously just doesn’t want the life. He was a college entrant right? So didn’t do the long haul through the lower orders and maybe has no appetite to do so? I assume that just quitting is not straightforward – it’s a dishonourable discharge either way?
      After the subpar ringside treatment and awful loss of Hibirikyu, I could have some sympathy for someone losing their drive to continue, but at Ozeki? – I’m at a loss. You’d have to be veeeery fed up.

  5. Asanoyama Wikipedia’s page have just been taken down. This looks very ominous indeed. Signs of things to come?

  6. Given what they did to Abi, shunting him down to the lowest ranks, could they possibly force Asanoyama to retire? What a waste. He should have had all the talent to be Yokozuna. You can’t fix stupidity though.

  7. As a diehard fan of mongol rikishi I have too add as a scandal also the “hansoku” case of Teronofuji. I believe there is a “hairline” decision about a “hair pull”, but here I am a bit subjective. But about Asanoyama the regulation breach must be punished in same way like Abi was. There is also a lie, so 4 tournaments? Intai? Quite hard to say. About Ryuden, I dont know. Yes, if there is everything true, he is a vile person but I think things like that have nothing to affect his sumo career. It’s his bedtime affair, c’est la vie.

  8. I’ll keep it short, gang: Sumo really DON’T need this. Not at this very moment. …smh…

  9. Why oh why do people take the chance to do something for a moment or two of enjoyment and risk a lifetime of regret? Heartbroken in Seattle.

  10. In Japanese – Asanoyama
    In English – Dumb-Ass

    After the Abi incident and resulting punishment how stupid do you have to be to repeat it?

    I was never a fan of his and never bought into the hype about him. Regardless, it’s a pity any time to watch a young man in his prime and on top of the world flushing it all down the drain. It was one thing to incur the infraction of the rules but he severely compounded that by lying to the JSA.

    You’re right Barry B, Sumo did not need this right now or at any time for that matter. Here they now have the embarrassment of the #1 ranked guy participating in the May basho figuratively getting caught with his pants down and then lying and saying “Not me!”.

    Even though I don’t like him and am no fan of his I wish him well in his future endeavors outside of Sumo because I believe the JSA will send him packing

  11. “Good grief!”
    — Charlie Brown

    Risking the health and well being of those around him, risking his own career – ah, well… partying long hours at a club puts him in line with other young men, like those spring breaking in Florida through the pandemic, which isn’t too surprising when looked at that way. Definitely not saying it’s okay, but the shock is as much due to his unique ozeki status than his professional athlete status. We don’t expect better deportment and behavior out of the US swim team or NFL players, but expect it from someone like Asanoyama, who should be upholding Traditions.

    I think it’s a pity because, as Bruce and others have noted, he has so much potential and was elated with his promotion. But in recent basho I have asked, “Is he having fun?” There’s the pressure of the ozeki status. It’s an anachronistic lifestyle, physically punishing. As Hibikiryu’s loss tragically proved, they are risking their well being each time they enter the dohyo. Living in a heya suspends them in what you can argue is an adolescent state: most sleeping in a common room, being fed, doing chores, mandatory nap time. That’s reinforced by the NSK holding the oyakata as responsible for the rikishi’s behavior as the riskishi themself, as we saw with Shikoroyama oyakata and Abi (who is married and lived outside the heya at the time of his offenses.) So with various factors that could attribute to poor decision making and risk assesment, including flat out immaturity and self-centeredness, here we are.

    Without elder stock and coaching as a clear trajectory, options are poor for retired rikishi. Asanoyama has a university degree but with a public scandal, who knows where his future lies if he is dropped by the Kyokai. We can hope he has a soft landing into reality, but I was hoping for a long(er), healthy career.

  12. As a fan of his it’s upsetting, but the overwhelming feeling is disappointment. That’s the one word I’d sum this up with for me.

  13. It´s the mr. orange curse. Everyone he touches becomes foul.
    I hope they give Asanoyama just a punishment, and he is able to come back sometime later.

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