Noted sumo commentator and friend of Tachiai, John Gunning, bravely wrote another knock-out piece for the Japan Times. This time, he took on the sumo tradition of barring women from the dohyo. For sumo fans that somehow missed it, at an early jungyo stop in Maizuru, the town’s mayor collapsed while delivering the opening remarks from the dohyo. In the rush to render aid, two female medical professionals mounted the dohyo and began CPR. In an unfortunate mistake, the venue’s announcer began to admonish the women to leave the dohyo at once. As a result, the Japanese public responded with outrage, and hours later the story went world-wide.
First of all we have to ask what the purpose of the rule is. Women are not barred from the sport completely. They compete in amateur tournaments and play a large role in the management of professional sumo stables. The proscription is solely Shinto related and can be seen in other places “sacred” to the religion such as on Mount Omine in Nara.
I encourage our followers to read this well-thought-out piece of commentary.
Due to prior problems with comments on this subject, there will be no comments accepted on this post.
My biggest gripe about my video provider is that there was no way to get any Japanese language programming, not even NHK World, across its satellite beam. Now word comes to me that they are carrying TVJapan. Sure, it’s a ton of crazy stuff in Japanese every day. But the solid gold nugget in the $25/month fee is the honbasho coverage it will bring every day for two solid weeks.
Expensive? You bet! Extravagant? You bet! Crazy? Indeed! But for a sumo lover like me, it’s a tempting scenario. If you want to check it out yourself, take a look here: DirecTV TV Japan
Tickets went on sale for May’s Natsu basho at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo. Reports from the Sumo Association are that the entire 15 day event has sold out, except for tickets reserved for “day of” sales to ardent sumo fans who wake up and get in line at 5:00 AM.
Public interest in sumo seems to continue to be strong, in spite of the brief outcry over the Maizuru tour stop, where a pair of female medical professionals were admonished for mounting the dohyo to render medical aid to the mayor, after he collapsed during his welcoming remarks.
For readers of Tachiai who were able to score tickets, events at the Kokugikan are quite enjoyable, and offer a vastly different experience from watching the matches on video.
Yesterday, the NSK board convened. After a couple of meetings in which the newly elected board was set up and various toshiyori were assigned duties, it was finally time to deliberate the penalties of various trouble makers.
Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana
As you may recall, in the middle of the basho, shin-juryo Takayoshitoshi decided to beat up his tsukebito in front of many witnesses, and was pulled out of the basho as a result. His punishment for the deed is a suspension for one basho. He will not do the spring jungyo and will forfeit the Natsu basho. He is allowed to practice at his heya.
This of course implies a sharp drop in rank. Maybe even as far as sandanme.
The stablemaster of every trouble rikishi also has to bear punishment for his part in raising and guiding his deshi improperly. However, in Takanohana’s case, there was more – he has continued his games with the NSK and played hooky from the arena. He wasn’t around when the twin did the deed, and he should have.
There was a faction in the NSK – allegedly the Nishonoseki ichimon – which called for him to be suspended from all activities this time. This would have prevented him from actually guiding his deshi, and may have required fostering them temporarily to other heya in his ichimon. However, the Takanohana ichimon begged for a lighter sentence, and eventually the board decided on yet another demotion. He now has the lowest possible rank for a member of the NSK: toshiyori.
The Minezaki scandal
We haven’t mentioned this story in a post so I need to fill you in. A short time before the Takayoshitoshi story broke, it was announced that a rikishi from Minezaki beya has beaten up a junior on four separate occasions, some of them after the Harumafuji scandal. The junior rikishi retired as a result, but the story only came to the knowledge of the stablemaster from a letter sent by the former rikishi’s father. He promptly reported it to the NSK and they announced it publically after verifying it with the parties involved.
The names of the parties have not been revealed by the Japanese press, but only one rikishi retired from that heya recently: Kaigo. As for the assailant, a single rikishi from Minezaki beya pulled out of the tournament following the publication: Arawashi’s tsukebito, Hikarugenji. Connect the dots.
And his punishment was decided yesterday as well. He, too, will be suspended from one basho. Again, a drop in rank is implied. Hikarugenji was sandanme 25 in the Haru basho.
Minezaki oyakata was docked 10% of his salary for the next two months.
The Osunaarashi wrap-up
At the time of the announcement of the Osunaarashi scandal, his stablemaster served as a trustee. This means that he was not considered a member of the NSK and could not be punished (though through some regulation gymnastics, he could still keep his heya…)
However, in yesterday’s meeting he was docked 10% of his salary by his own request. At the same opportunity, he also declared that he will not be holding a danpatsu-shiki (ceremonial cutting of top-knot) for Osunaarashi. Indeed, the former rikishi is already shorn.
The punishments seem extremely light. Yet another demotion for Takanohana, after he clearly didn’t repent following the previous one and indeed said he does not accept nor understand it? It remains to be seen if the former dai-yokozuna will quit his attention-seeking behavior and start on a more constructive path.
As for the two violent rikishi, what message does that send to parents who send their kids to professional sumo? “Nothing has changed. Your kid may well be beaten up if a senior doesn’t like the way he makes the chanko. There is no incentive for the seniors to keep their hands in their obi.” After Hakkaku declared that stopping violence in sumo is the top item on his agenda, I would have expected a more severe punishment.
An old Jewish saying goes: “He who is kind to the cruel ends up being cruel to the kind”.
Today, the banzuke meeting took place. The full banzuke will not be published until shortly before the next basho, but as usual, promotions to Juryo are announced ahead of time, to allow new promotees to get ready with their paraphernalia.
Newcomers to Juryo:
Wakatakakage, Arashio beya
Hakuyozan, Takadagawa beya
Asabenkei, Takasago beya
Wakatakakage hails from Fukushima, and in his promotion interview, he vowed to do his best for the sake of the Fukushima residents who suffered in the great Tohoku disaster. He says he got a kimono and obi from the previous Fukushima “representative”, Sotairyu, who retired in Hatsu 2018, symbolically continuing in his footsteps.
Hakuyozan, when asked about his goal as Sekitori, said he wanted to reach the same rank as his stablemaster, Takadagawa oyakata [That is to say, Sekiwake. –PinkMawashi].
The stablemaster himself laughed and said he was aiming too low. Eventually they agreed that he should follow in the steps of Yokozuna Kashiwado, who hailed from Yamagata, Hakuyozan’s home.
With three promoted, three will be demoted. The demoted rikishi have not been announced, but obviously two of them are Enho and Takayoshitoshi. The third one will probably be Amakaze. If, like myself, you are wondering why ranked J7 he will be demoted rather than one of the low rankers with a make koshi (e.g. Tobizaru at J13), well, Amakaze had a very poor performance (3-12), and I’m told he was scheduled on senshuraku against Asabenkei, specifically to determine whether they should trade places. Amakaze lost, Asabenkei got the promotion, thus Amakaze goes.
Congratulations to the new (and returning) sekitori, and personally, if indeed Amakaze is the unlucky ex-sekitori, I hope to see both him and Enho back in their Kesho-mawashi soon.