Frankly, I did not want to report this story at all, as it’s a demonstration of stupidity. But now that it has gone global and is busy giving sumo yet another black eye, it’s unavoidable.
During the spring Jungyo tour’s stop in Maizuru, the mayor of the town was on the dohyo speaking and collapsed. Many people rushed to the dohyo to help, including medical professionals that were present to enjoy a day of sumo. They applied CPR and first aid techniques to sustain the mayor until he could be transported to the hospital. The Mayor is going to be ok, it seems. The quick work and skillful application of medicine saved the day. That’s the good part of the story. Now the stupid.
Several of the highly trained medical professionals were women. Did they care that the dohyo is supposed to be a sacred place were women were not allowed? Hell no! These were dedicated healers. A fellow human was in peril, and they were going to go save him. So far, only slightly stupid. Oh, but then one of the younger gyoji took to the PA system and directed the women to leave the dohyo. Not once, but several times. Of course, it was captured on video, of course it was posted to social media.
Sumo loves to be a sport of unchanging and unyielding tradition. As a westerner my perspective is not the Japanese perspective. As I mention at least once per basho, most of us in the west are outsiders to this land, this culture and this sport. But at some point, common sense had to have kicked in. Look here, Sumo Association of Japan, if you want to make sure no women doctors or nurses try to rescue the hurt and injured from your sacred space, you are going to need a set of medical folks who are on call.
Chairman Hakkaku rightfully apologized later, stating “It was an inappropriate response in a life-threatening situation,”. Damn straight Hakkaku. Furthermore, it was an unforced error and loss of face for a great sport that has been greatly degraded over the past year. For the chairman to try and pass this off on the inexperience of the young gyoji is inexcusable.
The only clear winners here are the mayor of Maizuru, who lived to see another sunrise, and Takanohana, who through a majestic stroke of luck is no longer the biggest asshole in sumo for a few days.
Again, I am an outsider, but I am going to guess that my favorite sport is going to suffer a well-deserved set back in the people’s hearts from this pointless insult.
Comments for this post are now closed. Some great and thoughtful discussion from our highly-valued readers, but we were swerving into things like trans-gender issues that have nothing to do with sumo. Thank you for understanding.
The NSK board convened for a special meeting today to discuss and decide the punishment of tate-gyoji Shikimori Inosuke for his sexual assault of a junior gyoji.
As you may recall, the victim does not intend to press charges, so the tate-gyoji is not going to face any punishment other than the disciplinary measures of the NSK.
The punishment they have come up with is a three-basho-suspension. This includes:
Suspension from three basho.
Suspension from all jungyo occurring between those basho.
Salary docked for the suspension period.
In addition, Inosuke’s stablemaster, Miyagino oyakata, was reprimanded for the event, which happened during the jungyo, by the acting head of the jungyo department, Kasugano oyakata.
Inosuke himself was present at the board meeting, and expressed his apologies. He also took responsibility and handed in his resignation. However, the board decided not to accept it at the moment, and is set to accept it after the Natsu basho (that is, as soon as the suspension ends).
When asked if this means that Inosuke the 40th will never mount a dohyo again, Hakkaku the board chairman replied “So it seems”.
In the absence of a tate-gyoji (as there has not been a Kimura Shonosuke for the past two years), his duties will be taken by the most senior sanyaku gyoji, Shikimori Kandayu. And indeed he presided over today’s dohyo matsuri (in the picture above, with his back to us). The dohyo matsuri is a religious ceremony asking the gods to watch over the rikishi and keep them safe. Kandayu commented: “For the safety of the rikishi, I put my heart and soul in it”.
Kandayu is also set to be pointing the gunbai in the musubi-no-ichiban (last bout of the day) for the Hatsu basho.
May the basho proceed in safety and without any further disturbances.
Just as the sumo world is trying to recuperate from last year’s Harumafuji scandal, and amidst our hopes for a 2018 free of scandals, the NSK announced yesterday that the tate-gyoji, Shikimori Inosuke the 40th, has sexually assaulted a junior gyoji in his teens while drunk.
The top two ranking gyoji in sumo are called “tate-gyoji”. They are the ones in charge of refereeing the Yokozuna bouts, and also participate in yokozuna dohyo-iri and consecrate the dohyo before honbasho.
Tate-gyoji use inherited names. The top rank is always “Kimura Shonosuke” (the order is the Japanese name order – last name first), and the secondary rank is “Shikimori Inosuke”. The last Shonosuke retired about two years ago, but Inosuke was not promoted to Shonosuke, following a series of misjudged bouts that cost him a suspension in 2015. This means that at the moment, Shikimori Inosuke the 40th is the only active tate-gyoji. Inosuke is a member of Miyagino beya, Hakuho’s stable.
The event itself took place on the evening of December 16th, while he was doing the jungyo. This was the night between the two events at Ginowan, Okinawa. During supper, the tate-gyoji imbibed large quantities of Awamori (a hard Okinawan liquor) and became thoroughly inebriated. A junior gyoji helped him get back to his hotel. The senior gyoji then proceeded to kiss the minor (in Japan, the age of majority is 20) on his lips several times and fondled his chest once.
Another member of the gyoji-kai, a Makuuchi gyoji, learned of this incident and reported it to the NSK. The crisis management committee opened investigation, verified the facts, and questioned Inosuke directly. He responded: “I was too heavily drunk, I have no recollection of what happened”, and “I have no interest in men, so I have no idea why I would do something like that.” However, he did not positively deny the act, and he has already apologized to the victim before the NSK was informed of the incident.
The victim, who was reportedly traumatized by the event, is not interested in filing a police report, nor does he wish the NSK to pursue the matter further. He only wanted an apology. However, in the wake of the previous scandal and the current public atmosphere, the NSK cannot let this matter go. They intend to convene a special meeting of the board and decide on Inosuke’s fate in the near future.
The head of the board, Hakkaku, did not mince his words: “It is deplorable that a man at the top position in the hierarchy would do something like that. The very act of drinking oneself beyond recollection is inappropriate. I have warned Inosuke in the past about his bad behavior when drinking.”
Today Miyagino oyakata made an apology for his heya’s gyoji.
Following a closed-doors keiko session, the stablemaster responded to the media and the press, saying “Being in a leadership position with respect to Inosuke, I deeply apologize for his deed. He has a history of bad drinking and was abstinent for a while, then started drinking again. I had warned him about it and all I can do now is request that he abstain from drinking again.”
When Hakuho came out of the heya was also accosted by the press, and responded somewhat in consternation: “He is not gay as far as I know, but he does love his liquor” before disappearing into the car on his way home.
Assuming the punishment that will be decided by the board involves either suspending or dismissing the tate-gyoji, this comes at a very inconvenient timing for the NSK, with honbasho starting in about a week. The tate-gyoji is supposed to accompany the Yokozuna in the Meiji-jingu dedication dohyo-iri, as well as consecrate the dohyo the day before shonichi, never mind presiding over the yokozuna/ozeki matches.
Shikimori Inosuke is 58 years old and his real name is Itsuo Nouchi.