Michinoku-Beya Violence Scandal

The last thing Michinoku-oyakata wants right now is to rock the boat. His star pupil, Kiribayama, is on the cusp of an Ozeki-run with this tournament being the most pivotal. Unfortunately, Herouth comes to us with news on Twitter that Kirinofuji is accused of multiple acts of violence against his heya-mate, Yasunishi. The details are unpleasant to say the least, which included acts of physical as well as verbal abuse in a campaign “intended as education.”

It’s always difficult to parse through these scandals without trying to understand all sides. Why would Michinoku-oyakata and team attempt to minimize the abuse? Is it to avoid scandal and close the matter quickly, or did they genuinely feel the abuse was somehow legitimate or somehow excusable? The assertion that this is how brothers are…when the allegations include shooting with an airgun and being hit with a pan…rings a bit hollow.

It’s good to hear that in this case it seems Yasunishi has been getting some good counsel (and possible support from) an unnamed anideshi. But it’s extremely difficult to see how such behavior will be rooted out of the sport if it is minimized to this degree to where, up until the Kirinofuji intai, it’s basically being passed off as acceptable. Yes, there are horseplay and disagreements…but then there’s abuse. It’s important for the sport that its leaders and management be able to discern the difference and act appropriately, which does not appear to have happened in this case. Thus, the scandal-meter is unfortunately back. (Hint: Pans are for cooking, not attitude adjustment. Airsoft is for the Airsoft venue with appropriate protective equipment, not enforcement of chores or status.)

13 thoughts on “Michinoku-Beya Violence Scandal

  1. I just heard about it after watching first episode of Sanctuary on Netflix. (Although “watching” is saying too much, as I could not stand the abuse shown in sumo beya in first 5 minutes and I had to turn it off). Has anyone watched this new tv show? I’m really surprised about lack of any info on Tachiai about it. I wonder whether this is complete fiction or sad reality of sumo that we prefer not to think about.

    • I have not seen it. It’s fiction and therefore I have not had a desire to. The plot line hasn’t interested me, either.

    • Sanctuary is very good. But I had to mentally place it in the early 2000’s. A lot of the more open violence would not fly today. I found it to be well acted, properly directed, and very engaging writing. The biggest problem I had was the discontinuity where they jump around the timeline in the first episode.

      But I’m a sucker for bad boy turns good storys.

    • It’s tough because there are definitely true elements to the show but at the same time it feels like they’re caricatures playing the parts which has the potential to cheapen or provide the wrong impression of sumo to those who don’t follow it.

      As someone who does, it was great seeing the references to real life matches (you can actually date the timeline by the Hakuho match that’s heard). It was interesting to see the treatment, it was well acted and yes, at times uncomfortable and yes they could have cut some of the extreme parts out. It does get better if you get past the first couple episodes.

      I’m extremely curious what the Kyokai thinks of it. I do hope they do more, the storylines if suffering continuity issues are compelling enough and we don’t get enough sumo in the west between basho.

  2. The next unfortunate question that I doubt the NSK wants anyone asking is what did their star pupil know and when did he know it? I know sekitori don’t have to live at the heya, but he’s still there daily. Did he try to intervene? If not, why? 😕

    • if any of the behavior occurred at keiko. I mean for some of this, I doubt we could get a real understanding short of Big Brother style cameras everywhere.

    • You forget that even sekitori aren’t actually at the top of the stable hierarchy; the shisho is. If he doesn’t see fit to do anything about it, sekitori aren’t really in position to address such a problem on their own without causing further issues. Also keep in mind that a vindictive shisho who thinks his authority is being threatened could essentially end any rebellious deshi’s career at a moment’s notice, even a sekitori’s.

  3. Disgusting behaviour from the oyakata if the reporting is accurate. He is basically endorsing violence “between brothers” (who are in an unequal power relationship) while also apparently acknowledging it was one person doing all the “hitting”. The comfort of the aggressor who “didn’t want to retire” (what even???) is prioritised over the physical safety of Yasunishi.

    I understand that people often want to hush up a scandal but even so, denying any wrongdoing is happening and not reporting anything is just despicable. Props to Yasunishi for persisting and I hope he’ll have a safe and successful career. I’d also say I hope there will be impactful punishments for the oyakata and NSK people involved but I’m not holding my breath.

  4. It’s disappointing to hear about yet more incidents such as these, though not surprising. If sumo is serious about changing it’s image it will still take time for that to happen, but i hope they ‘walk the walk’ when these things surface. Isegehama has had to step back in his jsa responsibilities due to recent issues, you would hope that these things are dealt with similarly.

  5. Would also point out that Hanakago reaches the mandatory retirement age for oyakata next year. I’m not sure how any sensibly run organisation would let him continue as sanyo given his handling of the situation either.

  6. (which included acts of physical as well as verbal abuse in a campaign “intended as education.”)

    I guess Michinoku-oyakata’s philosophy is that the beatings will continue until moral improves.

    While here in the west that is meant as a joke, it appears Michinoku-oyakata took it quite literally.

    Sure Michinoku-oyakata, daily ass-whippings are a great way to “educate”. How about the NSK physically and verbally abuse you for a month or two in order to “educate” you on the proper way to run a heya.


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