Kokonoe-oyakata and Wrestler Disciplined for Underage Deshi Drinking

An underage rikishi from Kokonoe-beya was transported by ambulance after drinking alcohol. In Japan, the official drinking age, and the age of adulthood, is 20. The rikishi is a minor and ranked below Juryo, so his name was not released. Some sleuthing has been done and the name is likely known but I’m not going to report it. The Kyokai suspended both the rikishi and Kokonoe-oyakata, though the total length of the suspensions have yet to be released. It seems the wrestler’s name has been removed from the Kokonoe-beya website, suggesting he is out of the sport.

This thread from Herouth has many great details. (I will curse Elon forever for breaking the Twitter embeds.) An important detail is the fact that minors and most non-sekitori are restricted from attending Jungyo, except for cases where they are tsukebito of sekitori, specially requested by the Jungyo site (like hometown boys), or, as in this case, accompanying their oyakata. Since Kokonoe-oyakata is (was?) the deputy chief in charge of the Jungyo, all of his charges were there. In his case, that’s some twenty-five wrestlers to monitor. Even with the assistance of the other three Kokonoe-beya oyakata, that’s a big task.

Let’s be practical here. When I was in high school, our senior class was a little smaller than this stable. In spite of the fact that we had several chaperones for our three-day class camping trip, some of my classmates decided to smoke weed one night and they got busted. Our class was the last to have that Senior Class trip, among other consequences. The Junior class wasn’t much better. They were an even smaller bunch but a young lad and lass were able to escape their supervision at their trip and…well…this isn’t that kind of website; and future classes did not have that Junior Class trip.

When I was in Ecuador with an even smaller group of high school students, two lads and a lass evaded chaperones and…well…this isn’t that kind of website. About a week later, several kids got caught smoking cigarettes and one was sent home. When we were in Quito, we sneaked out and went to a bar. Somehow, I was the only one carded, despite the fact that I was the only one who was actually 18, and thus legal in Ecuador. Oh, and then our sailboat ran aground and sank in the Galapagos. Hey, at least one thing wasn’t the kids’ fault.

“So, Andy, where are you going with this?” People are going to blame Kokonoe-oyakata, as they should. He’s the boss. You have to be able to watch these kids like a hawk. And when you can’t, which is often, bad things will happen. My only point here is that while there are few details about what actually happened, responsibility will certainly lie with more than one person here. There were 24 other stablemates and I’m sure at least some could have/should have intervened. “Dude, you shouldn’t drink that,” or at least “You’ve had enough.” Who knows if a supporter had funded the outing and prompted or encouraged some of the misbehavior, a la Santuary and Enō’s patron?

In the end, the Kyokai are going to need to adjust their policies. I would be surprised if large stables will bring the entire stable, including minors, on Jungyo. Alcohol use is common place in Japan, even among the under-20s. Street vending machines sell beer and flavored highballs. Izakaya, karaoke boxes, and other restaurants — even kissaten — entertain groups of high schoolers. My wife just gave me a juicy anecdote about when she was in middle school and her class of middle schoolers all went out drinking at an okonomiyaki restaurant. I can honestly say, I have been to easily a hundred bars and restaurants in Japan and I was carded once, at GasPanic in Yokohama — and that was the crazy night I got roofied.

As others have noted, many of the sumo world scandals result from nights out drinking like this. There’s the sexual harassment scandal which led to the quasi-ban on minors at Jungyo, Harumafuji’s karaoke remote, Asashoryu’s brawl…the list goes on, and it goes back. Even further back than Futahaguro. Wrestlers, yobidashi, gyoji, oyakata,… all of them, individually, are going to need to realize that yet another drink might cost them, or their friend, their career. Sadly, this won’t be the last time this happens (thus the scandal counter). But hopefully it will happen less and less frequently.

When I see more updates on punishment/consequences, I’ll post them here.

11 thoughts on “Kokonoe-oyakata and Wrestler Disciplined for Underage Deshi Drinking

  1. I tend to agree with your message Andy. Yes it is deplorable that such a thing has happened. But unfortunatly, even though each countries set a fix age that tell to their society that it is legal (not necessarly ok) to drink alcohol, there will always be the temerity of young reckless teen-adult pushed by their hormone to do these kind of things.

    While Kokonoe Oyakata will probably receive a blame, i hope it might be a leniant one. Because like you said, it might not be enterily his fault if those rikishi have decided to elude his watch to do their drinking mischief.

    The only real concern here i belive for this scandal is, was the underage kid was coerce by adult rikishi to drink. If he was and it wasn’t by his own decision, then yes, now i believe there should be a harsh punishement done to those who coerced him into doing that.

    I don’t know if it’s the case in Japan, but in a lot of countries around the world, coercing an underage kid into drinking alcohol is a criminal offense.

  2. Andy: I follow Tachiai from Seattle and totally appreciate everything written! Would it be possible to pass this message of support to Herouth since I cannot find a contact address? I, too, am Jewish and offer my genuine concern and compassion for Israel, Herouth’s country.

  3. Although the age for drinking alcohol (and smoking and gambling) in Japan is still 20, the age of majority (adulthood) is now 18.

  4. I don’t know how much credibility Andy you give to Chris Gould, but base on a small video report he made yesterday about this event, all this mess seem to be mostly due to the fault of that young rikishi (who apparently was 18, so not underage. But not of legal age to drink in Japan.) and a senior rikishi who accompagnied him. Base on what he report in his video:

    -All that event apparently happened around october 14th. (So a little while ago)

    The two rikishi, after a day at the jungyo, were invited by local friends to have fun at a karaoke bar. (seem pretty ordinary up to there)
    Over there, the young rikishi, despite not having the age for it, was encourage by friends to drink. The senior rikishi apparently “tried” to dissuade him to do that. (Look like he didn’t tried really hard though. -_-)
    They drank and had fun so much that they eventualy pass and broke the hotel and association midnight curfew.
    Seeing that they broke their curfew, instead of going back to their hotel, they “wisely” though is was pointless to go back and decided to continue by going to another bar and drink some more, stay up all night and come back only in the morning (with no sleep) to the next jungyo’s day event.
    It is around that point, when taking a cab between bars, that the young rikishi started to feel really sick. To the point an ambulance was call.
    That young rikishi woke up the next morning, in a hospital bed, with Kokonoe Oyakata at his side, worried about him and checking if he was ok. And of course, delivered him a serious harsh lecture for the stupidity he just did, breaking his curfew and his watch, not being serious about his sumo life (pressumebly) and so on. (Kind of normal behavior here i would assume.)
    Still, the young rikishi was taken back to the heya. Report say that the atmosphere around him was a bit gloomy. He was forbidden to train with other rikishi and was put more on self-training exercise for a while.
    All this event eventually made it to the ears of the head of the sumo association days later who asked a meeting with the two rikishis and Kokonoe Oyakata. (Probably was reported by Kokonoe himself maybe ? As by the association rules.)
    Over there though Kokonoe reported everything, all the events, to the elders and holded “no punch” on his young rikishi. Saying everything as it were, blamming his reckless misconduct, and not taking really his side. (Who then was probably even more blammed and harsly punished at that moment i would assume.)
    Apparently it’s after that meeting, that the young rikishi felt “betrayed” by Kokonoe Oyakata for not relating the event in a more “light toned” view and taking his defense against the sumo association. He immediatly stormed out, ran away from the heya calling it quits and went straight to a barber shop to top his knot. (O.o)

    And….that’s it. Well, based on Chris Gould report at least. Like i said, i don’t know how much trust you guys give to his report.

    Anyway, if everything he said is accurate, than personnaly, i think Kokonoe Oyakata don’t have much (if any) to blame himself for. Seem to me to be mostly entirely the two rikishi’s fault for breaking the sumo association’s rules, eluding purposely Kokonoe’s watch and doing a really “stupid thing” that jeopardized their sumo carrer by not taking it seriously and most and foreall, not assuming the consequence and punishement of their action.

    The lesson: Young teen-adult will always be young teen-adult. Sometime making really…hum….unwise decision that come with dire concequence. Life is life.


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