NHK World Harumafuji Update


harumafuji

During the day Friday, US Time, NHK World has been leading their broadcast (video at the link) with an update on the investigation into Harumafuji’s assault of Takanoiwa. Leading the report is news that Harumafuji told police investigators that he did attack Takanoiwa, but only used his hands, rather than a beer bottle as earlier reports stated.

This comes on the back of reports this morning Japan time that the health report filed by Takanoiwa and his Oyakata, former Yokozuna Takanohana, may have included descriptions of injuries sustained well before his hospitalization. This includes the skull fracture and the cerebral-spinal fluid reported in Takanoiwa’s ears. From Tachiai’s own lead Japanese press-hawk, Herouth;

 

 

As well as this translation:

 

If true, this departs greatly from the events that were reported when the story broke earlier this week, and greatly change the context of the scandal.  Tachiai will continue to track this story as the investigation continues.

Everything You Need to Know After Act One


 

With the first act of the Kyushu basho coming to an end, here is a quick rundown of everything you need to know to get all caught up.

Yusho Race

Five days in and the leaderboard has already dwindled down to three men, all with perfect records. Maegashira 13 Aminishiki, Ozeki Goeido, and a very genki Yokozuna Hakuho have five wins each and are neck and neck in the yusho race. Behind them with four wins are Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Arawashi, and surprisingly, Okinoumi. I expect this group to be much smaller by the end of act two.

Kinboshi

So far, there have been three kinboshi surrendered this basho. Tamawashi earned the first of these gold star victories on day 1 when he defeated Yokozuna Kisenosato. Up and comer Takakeisho claimed the other two when he beat Harumafuji on day 2 and Kisenosato on day 4.

Kyujo and Absences

There are currently six men on the banzuke who have pulled out of the competition. Ura, Takanoiwa and Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew citing health issues before the start of the basho. Aoiyama joined them on day 3 after sustaining an ankle injury in his match with Okinoumi. Day 3 would also see Yokozuna Harumafuji pull out of the competition following accusations of an assault on Takanoiwa during the October jungyo tour. After four straight losses, former Ozeki Terunofuji withdrew on day 5 to address the multiple health issues that have been plaguing him as of late.

Tozai-Sei

On day 1, I mentioned that I would be keeping track of the unofficial Tozai-sei Championship going on between the East and West sides of the banzuke. The Tozai-sei was an award used in the early 20th century and was given to the side of the banzuke with the most wins, and I’ve decided to resurrect it for a bit of added fun this basho. The rules are simple: for every win a rikishi gets, his side receives a point. After five days, the West leads the East with a record of 53 to 46. This lead is no doubt thanks to Aminishiki, Ichinojo, Takayasu, and Hakuho, who have a combined 18 points thus far. The top point earners on the East side are Okinoumi, Mitakeumi, and Goeido, who have 14 points between them.

With day 6 set to start in just a few short hours, there are still so many great sumo highlights to look forward to as the Kyushu basho rolls on.

Harumafuji Scandal Development


Hakuho

There has been another development in the Harumafuji scandal today. While speaking to the press, key witness Yokozuna Hakuho stated that there was a bottle involved in the incident, but it was not used in the assault on Takanoiwa.

横綱・白鵬が取材に応じ、「やってはいけないことで、手を出したのは事実です。私もその場にいたわけだし、相撲界として世間に本当に申し訳ない気持ちでいっぱいだ。報道されているようにビール瓶で殴っていたわけではありません。ビール瓶は持ちましたが、手から滑り落ちそのあとに私が間に入って部屋から連れ出しました」

Hakuho noted that Harumafuji had been holding a beer bottle before the altercation, but it slipped from his hand before Hakuho separated him from Takanoiwa. The Dai-Yokozuna also expressed his sorrow for not stepping in and breaking up the fight sooner, and apologized to sumo fans for the entire incident.

Former Yokozuna Asashoryu has also remarked on the incident and stated via his Twitter account that there was no bottle involved in the conflict.

モンゴル出身の元横綱朝青龍もツイッターで「ビール瓶で殴ってないらしいよ」

Despite this claim, there has yet to be any proof that Asashoryu was present at the scene of the event on October 26th, and could be basing his opinion on second-hand knowledge.

This development raises the question of how Takanoiwa could have been seriously injured without the use of a weapon. Hakuho’s word is highly respected in the sumo world, but should evidence come forward that the night’s events were drastically different than how he described them he could find himself in hot water as well. Tachiai will continue to cover this story as it develops.

Link to the NHK article:

Whither… Takanoiwa?


Takanoiwa
There’s still him.

As Bruce did a great job of detailing, Harumafuji is in hot water for his role in potentially putting Takanoiwa out of action for quite some time and inflicting what may potentially be some degree of lasting damage to the head of his fellow rikishi. Much of the speculation, owing to the shocking nature of this incident and Harumafuji’s standing as a Yokozuna, has been around the subject of intai (by his choice or the association’s), what kind of punishment might be forthcoming, or what Harumafuji’s life will be like going forward.

But let’s not forget there is another side of this as well, and that’s the future of Takanoiwa’s career. Obviously, he has received extensive hospital treatment, and it’s unclear where and when we will see him functioning again on the dohyo as we have seen him function before. This passage from the Japan Times article on the scandal caught my eye:

Takanoiwa, 27, was one of the early withdrawals from the Nov. 12-26 tournament. He is expected to miss the entire meet and be demoted to the lower juryo rank at the meet in January.

It is certainly true that anyone kyujo from the entire tournament from the level of Maegashira 8 under normal injury circumstances would be demoted to Juryo. It has happened 14 times in the last 40 years and in the 9 of those times that the kōshō seido system was not applied, the rikishi concerned ended up ranked between J3 and J7 on the banzuke for the following basho.

However, these are not normal circumstances – and they also fall at a time when there have been renewed calls from luminaries of the sumo world (as well as, for what it’s worth, from these pages) to reconsider a reinstatement or a replacement for kōshō seido. While this isn’t a new thing (and you can find hot debates on sites like sumoforum about this, going back at least ten years), the increase in injuries certainly makes the conversation more relevant. John Gunning recently doubled down on the comments he made in the Japan Times regarding the size of rikishi during the NHK World Sumo Preview episode, the training regimen for fitness and injury recovery has been scrutinised in light of failed recoveries by key competitors, and the rigorous Jungyo schedule has not only strained the health of sekitori further but was the time during which the above incident occurred.

One should wonder then, whether special consideration will be given to Takanoiwa’s rank for Hatsu 2018 (if he is able to compete). After all, it is not like this was a normal injury caused on the dohyo or even the case of a clumsy accident at home: if the reports are correct, he was taken out of commission by an act of another rikishi for which there is an ongoing police investigation. If this special consideration to preserve Takanoiwa’s rank is given, could that then be a springboard to a new system that enables rikishi to get urgent appropriate medical attention in order to preserve their rank for even just one tournament?

There are no definitive answers to that latter question right now. But at a time when there’s seemingly nothing good coming out of this saga (the potential loss of a great – and sometimes also good – yokozuna’s career, a rikishi with potentially life changing injuries), the Association has an opportunity to reserve insult from injury. I, for one, hope they mark out this extraordinary circumstance, and allow Takanoiwa to resume his career in the division in which he has worked to establish himself over the past couple of years.

Sumo’s Harumafuji Scandal


Harumafuji-Press

Overview

The story broke Monday evening US time, and when I read the first version (published in a ridiculously large font on Sponichi), I could not actually believe what I was reading.  Granted it was all in Kanji, so I assumed that I had completely blown the translation. The core of the story was that during a Jungyo tour stop in Tottori in late October, Harumafuji attended a dinner party with a number of Mongolian rikishi. Over the course of the dinner, many of the rikishi became intoxicated.

During the course of their drinking and carrying on, Takanoiwa took a blow to the head that resulted in damage to his skull, his brain, his inner ear and general mayhem. Now it seems that this blow was delivered by Yokozuna Harumafuji, wielding a beer bottle.

The story was not immediately reported, but the press started digging when Takanoiwa was kyujo from day 1, with a rather worrisome list of injuries. At the start of day 3, the Japanese press exploded with the news. It was deemed important enough that it even appeared on NHK World’s English language news broadcast an hour after it broke.

In spite of my early disbelief in such an outrageous and sensational story could be true, the wide broadcast of the basics of the story seem to indicate there is some veracity to the claims.

takanoiwa

Time Line

  • October 26th – (day) Jungyo tour stop in Tottori
  • October 26th – (evening) Nikkan Sports has put together the details of the story based on evidence from participants and/or their heya staff. There was a dinner party in which all three Mongolian Yokozuna, as well as Terunofuji and Takanoiwa, who are considered “Local” in Tottori, having gone to high school there, and a few Japanese rikishi and others, totaling around 10 people, took part.The party itself went well enough, but then the participants continued to an after-party. It was at this point that some of those present became inebriated. Harumafuji took exception to the greeting he was given by Takanoiwa, which he deemed was insufficient, and started berating him, when Takanoiwa’s smartphone, stuck in his obi, started ringing. As Takanoiwa attempted to answer the call, the Yokozuna exclaimed “Not when somebody is talking to you!”, took a beer bottle and smashed it on the right side of Takanoiwa’s forehead.Takanoiwa fell down bleeding, and the Yokozuna dropped on top of him and continued to deliver some additional 20-30 blows with his bare hands, while Takanoiwa tried to fend him off. Apparently, Terunofuji, who was within range, also received some of the blows.Hakuho tried to come in between the parties and end the fight, only to be thrusted away by the enraged Harumafuji, who also snapped at Kakuryu: “It’s all because of you, you’re not guiding his behavior”.
  • October 26th – (night) Takanoiwa receives initial medical attention.
  • October 29th – Takanohana (Takanoiwa’s Oyakata) files a police report, detailing the assault.
  • November 3rd – Kasugano oyakata and head of Crisis Management Kagamiyama oyakata have telephone conversations with Isegahama oyakata and Takanohana oyakata to understand what happened.
  • November 5th – 9th – Takanoiwa is admitted to a Fukuoka hospital.  He stays for 5 days.
  • November 10th – Takanoiwa reports kyujo for the Kyushu basho.
  • November 12th – Takanoiwa hands the Sumo Kyokai his medical certificate which he receives from the Fukuoka hospital: Concussion (脳震盪); laceration on the front left of the head (左前頭部裂傷); external inflammation of the right ear (右外耳道炎); fractured skull (右中頭蓋底骨折); suspected cerebrospinal fluid leak (髄液漏の疑い).
  • November 13th – Details of the assault appear first in Sponichi, then rapidly spread throughout the Japanese press. When questioned by the press, he does not deny the attack, but instead apologies for the embarrassment and problems he has caused. Harumafuji and Isegahama Oyakata travel to the Kyushu location of Takanohana, but former Yokozuna Takanohana deftly avoided any interaction with the Isegahama delegation. The scene created some very somber and depressing photographs of Harumafuji.

Fallout

Simply put, Yokozuna Harumafuji is done. As a Yokozuna, he holds a high rank not only in the Sumo world, but in Japanese society. He has caused a tremendous loss of mentsu (メンツ), meaning reputation (literally “face”) for himself, his Oyakata, the Sumo Association and many others.

I have no doubt that Harumafuji takes his Yokozuna rank quite seriously, and I would guess he has already offered multiple times to fall on his sword and resign his rank and leave the world of sumo. I am also sure that will happen soon, but only after the Sumo Association figure out a way for him to do it while minimizing the damage to sumo as a whole.

This entire episode is sad, depressing an horrific.  Harumafuji did something really unacceptable, but at the same time he has been behind in a number of really kind and generous acts across the years. I can’t help but wonder if this is being cast in the worst possible light right now for some other reason.

Likely Outcomes

Harumafuji apologies in the most profound way, and resigns his role as Yokozuna, and fades away.  This is a given, the only question is if he will be allowed to resign or if the Sumo Kyokai will insist on ejecting him as a display of their control over sumo.

Jungyo will be altered, within a few short weeks we have seen a the press cite the intense jungyo schedule for a breakdown in sumo training, and now we have a high profile event that could be used to claim a breakdown in discipline during jungyo.

Damage for Takanohana, as the NSK’s man handling the Jungyo, and the Oyakata for Takanoiwa, a lot of this insanity came on his watch. He has, perhaps, suffered the greatest amount of embarrassment.

Damage for Isegahama, for some time, they have been a leading stable. Now they are about to lose their Yokozuna in disgrace, their Ozeki is damaged beyond repair, and their reputation is in tatters.

Damage for the Sumo Kyokai, sumo had been in a well earned ascendence both in Japan, and globally.  Scandals happen in every public endeavor, but if Harumafuji’s behavior is as described above, it does incalculable damage to sumo’s brand and reputation. This is especially acute for the rest of the Mongolian rikishi cohort, who already endure some public scorn because they are not Japanese.

For the Japanese press’ take on the matter, this report from the Japan Times is worth the read.  Sadly the article is quick to label the entire sport as “yet to improve its reputation tainted by scandals over match-fixing, violence and bullying”

For readers who are willing to wade into Kanji web sites, some links to help you come to grips with the story:

https://www.nikkansports.com/battle/sumo/news/201711140000699.html

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2017/11/14/kiji/20171114s00005000046000c.html

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2017/11/14/kiji/20171114s00005000076000c.html

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20171114/sum17111423060029-n1.html

Harumafuji Withdraws From Kyushu Basho – Updated


Harumafuji

It has been announced that Yokozuna Harumafuji has withdrawn from the Kyushu basho as of this morning. There is currently some controversy swirling around him due to a fight with another rikishi. The Japanese press is swirling with allegations, and frankly they seem too fantastic to repeat here until there is more evidence. However the Sumo Kyokai has opened an investigation of Harumafuji, and as a result he has withdrawn until they complete their review. Tamawashi picks up a fusen win for their day 3 match.

It is also noted that Aoiyama has withdrawn as of day 3 with an ankle injury sustained day 2, Kaisei will gain a fusen win for their day 3 match.

Update – Video report now running on NHK World:  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171114_80/

Kyushu Day 3 Preview


You Want To Do What?

The schedulers have given sumo fans many wonderful gifts for Tuesday, and we are eager to enjoy them. It seems that it was decided that day three would be twins day, and so most rikishi are facing their “twin”.  We have two giant men of girth, two youngsters who could push a Volkswagen up a hill without breaking a sweat, a pair of brawlers… Well, you get the idea!

The open questions we have going into day three include: 1. Is Harumafuji going to be able to gamberize and stick in the rotation? 2. How hurt is Aoiyama? 3. How hurt is the perpetually injured Kotoyuki? 4. What is it going to take to get Terunofuji to admit he’s injured and should not be playing kaiju today?

What We Are Watching Day Three

Kotoyuki vs. Myogiryu – Kotoyuki seemed to have injured his ankle on day two, but this guy is almost always hurt in some way. I hope that it was only light damage and he will be fit and ready for battle. He holds an 8-2 career lead over Myogiryu, but this will come down to injuries.

Nishikigi vs. Aminishiki – The only prior time these two faced off was in Juryo, and Nishikigi was the winner. For the first two days Aminishiki has looked very smooth and in control, and Nishikigi is not really showing us amazing sumo yet. So I would give a slight advantage to Uncle Sumo for this one.

Kagayaki vs. Asanoyama – These two are practically the same rikishi, that’s what makes this match so delightful! The primary difference is that Kagayaki gains weight in unfortunate locations, and Asanoyama is such a happy guy he may just laugh about it.

Kaisei vs. Aoiyama – Two rotund giants in a battle of the “Too Big To Flail”. Seriously though, probably a forfeit win for Kaisei as I hear Aoiyama really cranked up his ankle on day two.

Endo vs. Shodai – Ah Shodai, I am going to assume that Endo is going to make you pay for your high and slow tachiai. Endo seems to be bouncing back hard now, and if he can keep himself free of injuries, may be capable of rejoining the joi soon. For Endo fans that would be a welcome return. For Shodai, once he fixes his tachiai he’s going to make his next move higher.

Ichinojo vs. Hokutofuji – Both of these guys are showing some great sumo so far. I do love that they are going to put them head to head and see what happens. Hokutofuji has been quite fast and low so far, but against Ichinojo, it may not matter. Imagine being locked in hand to hand combat with a bridge abutment. Such a situation is going to require unusual tactics.

Shohozan vs. Chiyonokuni – Two sluggers going toe to toe. Chiyonokuni needs to start winning some, but home town boy Shohozan is starting off on a hot streak. My prediction for this fight is fast and painful, with more than one fierce blow to the face.

Mitakeumi vs. Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has had a crappy first set of matches, and he has eaten a good amount of clay in front of his home town fans. Now he faces an injured Mitakeumi, and I am guessing we are going to see some pelvic thrusts of extraordinary magnitude.

Terunofuji vs. Yoshikaze – Terunofuji has no knees left. I fear a replay of the Black Knight scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Much as we love both Terunofuji and Yoshikaze, this bout is going to be unpleasant to watch.

Onosho vs. Takayasu – Oh what wonders! A first time match between a powerful, brutal Ozeki and a potent up-start. I think the advantage here is Takayasu, but I am eager to see what tactics Onosho employs.

Goeido vs. Tochiozan – I am looking for more Geoido 2.0 here, and I would think that Tochiozan is at least considering a henka.

Takakeisho vs. Hakuho – A rematch we have all been waiting for. What kind of lessons will the Boss hand out to upstart Takakeisho today? Or can the angriest of tadpoles take back some dignity from the rikishi who schooled him in Nagoya?

Harumafuji vs. Tamawashi – A big test match for Harumafuji, if he loses again today it’s clear he is too banged up to compete. I know for a fact that Harumafuji would rather this not be the case, so we may finally see him unleash some of his more defensive tricks. But Tamawashi does indeed know how to win against Harumafuji, so both men will fight hard.

Kisenosato vs. Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is now super-sized for your entertainment, and he gets to test a still-questionable Kisenosato. Today should be the day we can tell if Kisenosato is going to be able to go the distance, or if he is still too hurt to practice Yokozuna level sumo.