Somebody, please set the “Days without a Sumo Scandal” sign back to zero.
According to several news sources, a case of abuse involving Naruto Beya has been filed with the NSK. The case, dating back to September 2018, involves several instances of an older Sandanme level rikishi using a judo chokehold on an underaged junior stablemate, to the point of losing consciousness. The reported cause for this abuse was the failure of the younger rikishi to perform his stable duties. there are also reports that this same young rikishi was struck with the corner of a smartphone.
For those of you familiar with the Naruto Beya, you will know that its Oyakata is the former Ozeki Kotooshu. Was informed of the situation by the victim on January 13th, and prevented the Sandanme rikishi from participating in the Hatsu Basho before informing the NSK of what had happened.
The NSK’s board of directors will be convening in a special meeting on February 8th to determine what punishment Naruto Oyakata and others involved will face. For more information please see the following link.
As previously reported, Takanoiwa has decided to hand in his retirement forms.
On the previous night, he had a talk with his new stablemaster, Chiganoura oyakata. The stablemaster tried to dissuade him from retiring, saying “You can still gambarize. There is still a lot that you can do. Let’s gambarize!” – but Takanoiwa’s mind was already made up. The head of the NSK board, Hakkaku, also asked him if he was sure this was the path he wanted to follow. Again, his mind was made up.
The NSK has therefore accepted his resignation. In a press conference earlier today, Takanoiwa expressed his apologies to his family, his stablemaster and okamisan, the rikishi, supporters and fans, as well as to his tsukebito.
A short Q&A session followed this announcement:
Q: Describe your current state of mind.
A: I feel deep responsibility for what I have done.
Q: When did you decide to retire?
A: Yesterday night.
Q: Have you spoken to your tsukebito?
A: Yes, I have.
Q: Have you weighed any options other than retiring?
A: Yes, but the feeling that I had to take responsibility and retire was the strongest.
Q: Only a year ago you were in the position of a victim.
A: This is a weakness of my own attitude.
Q: Have you learned anything from Sumo?
A: I learned how to put effort into hard work.
Q: What is the strongest memory you have from your life in sumo?
A: There are many memories, but I will remember sweating it together with my mates in practice sessions.
Q: If the gods of sumo turned back time, what time would you want to go back to?
So the three people most closely involved in the Harumafuji incident – Harumafuji, Takanoiwa and Takanohana – are all out of the sumo world.
A question sumo fans repeatedly ask is whether this will affect the banzuke for Hatsu. The answer is – based on past experience – it won’t. The banzuke will remain as it is, with either a blank or Takanoiwa’s name appearing in whatever position they have set for him. Changes to the banzuke after it has already been set down (and written out by the gyoji) are rare.
Stablemasters are usually punished for their deshi’s misdeeds. It’s still unclear how Chiganoura will be sanctioned, especially given that he has been in charge of Takanoiwa for only a very short time.
What will the NSK decide to do about Takanoiwa’s retirement funds? In the Harumafuji case, some part of them has been docked.
I will keep my eye on this story for a while, to see how Takataisho, the victim of this violent incident, is holding up in the sumo world. If you recall, the victim of Takayoshitoshi has retired from sumo a short while after the incident. I hope Chiganoura and his okamisan will be able to provide better protection for the young wrestler.
I will also watch out for word from the Imperial Household. Last year, following the cluster of scandals, the Emperor decided not to hold his yearly sumo viewing. The 2019 Hatsu basho is his last opportunity to view sumo as an emperor, and it would be sad if he missed out on that as well.
In March 2018, Takanohana filed a written accusation with the Cabinet Office, regarding the NSK’s handling of the Takanoiwa/Harumafuji incident. He withdrew the accusation once the Takayoshitoshi incident occurred.
Just before the board elections earlier this year, Shikoroyama beya and Minato beya declared independence from the Tokitsukaze ichimon, joining no other. Following the board elections, Tatsunami broke away from the Takanohana ichimon, again, joining no other. Takanohana then asked to remove his name from his own ichimon following the Takayoshitoshi incident. This was followed by him withdrawing from the ichimon completely, and the ichimon being dissolved, leaving the remaining members, “the Onomatsu group”, unaffiliated with any ichimon. In this state of affairs, the NSK board convened in July and made a decision that it would be mandatory for each oyakata to join one of the five remaining ichimon, and the deadline for this was set for the NSK board’s regular meeting on the 27th of September. At the time of writing, the only heya still unaffiliated is Takanohana beya.
Takanohana holds an “ichidai toshiyori myoseki”. That is, he holds the right to be a toshiyori (what we usually call oyakata) under his own shikona, but only for the duration of his membership in the NSK. Upon resignation, he loses the right and cannot leave it to another or rent it out as the regular toshiyori can. This means that Takanohana beya ceases to exist upon his resignation, with the most probable outcome being that the deshi are absorbed into another heya.
Takanohana Press Conference
After all the news outlets informed us earlier that Takanohana handed in his resignation papers (“taishoku todoke”), Takanohana opened his press conference by correcting them and saying that he handed in “retirement papers” (“intai todoke” – the same “intai” as when wrestlers or other athletes finish their active careers and move on to a new career path).
He followed this by explaining that the reason for his retirement is that he received a letter from the NSK stating that they found the letter of accusation he sent to the Cabinet Office (and withdrew) to be groundless. He said that tangible and intangible pressure was made on him to acknowledge that it was groundless, and that he was told that he can’t continue as oyakata and can’t join an ichimon – which is now mandatory – unless he does so. He said that he cannot bend the truth and say that his accusation was groundless when he believes that it wasn’t, and that therefore he has decided to resign, feeling that continuing as-is will put his deshi in a position where they cannot concentrate on their sumo.
Together with his retirement paper, he also filed a request to have his deshi and other members of his heya (tokoyama, sewanin) move to Chiganoura beya. He said that years ago he had made a pact with Chiganoura oyakata to take over his deshi if anything happened to him.
He said that the heya, which is also his home, contains a dohyo, and he intends to continue with a life connected to the dohyo. When asked by reporters whether this means he will start his own sumo organization, he said that he has “no such intention at this time”. He later explained that he wants to teach sumo to children, preparing them for entrance into professional sumo.
When asked whether the fact that he is holding the meeting in a law firm means that he was going to litigate against the NSK, he denied it and said he wants to avoid any pressure or tension from hitting his deshi.
Asked whether there is a possibility of him remaining with the NSK should the latter refuse to accept his resignation, he said there was none.
The head of the public relations department of the NSK, Shibatayama oyakata, responded to the retirement announcement and the accusations.
He pointed out that to break ties with the NSK, a resignation letter (“taishoku todoke”) is required, and that they received a retirement request (“intai todoke”), and even though the meaning is taken to be the same, it does not fulfill the requirement of the rules. Once the resignation letter is properly handed, they will debate whether to accept it or not.
Further on the technical details, he pointed out that the request to transfer the members of the heya to Chiganoura beya has not been signed by Chiganoura oyakata. It will need his seal before it can be considered.
Referring to Takanohana’s claims, he said that the claim that Takanohana could not enter an ichimon unless he conceded the falsehood of his “letter of accusation” has no basis in reality. Furthermore, the claim that if he does not join an ichimon he cannot continue as oyakata is false. He went on to explain the reasons for the decision about joining an ichimon. The NSK is a public incorporation, and therefore has to keep all monetary affairs transparent. There are monies – subsidies and management fees – that are distributed between the heya, and this is done through the ichimon. With many heya unattached to ichimon, it becomes difficult to properly distribute those monies, and the process becomes opaque. The NSK is currently on a mission to improve its governance, and for this reason, too, a unanimous decision was made to require that the oyakata sort themselves into the remaining ichimon.
However, pointed out Shibatayama, there was no decision as yet as to what would be done with heya which did not belong to ichimon by the deadline. In fact, this was left to be discussed in the NSK meeting on the 27 which is why the deadline was set at that time. In any case, the foreseeable short term decision would likely be giving the still-unattached heya some additional time to further negotiate joining one.
In addition to Shibatayama oyakata, Onomatsu oyakata, the head of the Shimpan department, also spoke to the press. Onomatsu has been Takanohana’s boss since the most recent reshuffle of jobs in the NSK (following the elections), but he was also a member of his now deceased ichimon and a former supporter. He said that he tried to convince Takanohana again and again, for some time now, as two people who work together, to join one of the ichimon – “and raise the youngsters there” – but to no avail. He said he put his soul into this, and that he did not want to lose Takanohana. When asked, he said that the “letter of accusation” was never mentioned during those persuasion attempts.
Takanohana’s brother, the former Wakanohana, initially reacted to the news with “What, he could not find a single ichimon who will accept him”? Later, after the press conference, he more diplomatically said that it’s a sad decision, and as an older brother, he is worried what will become of his (estranged) little brother.
Demon Kakka, with his usual no-nonsense attitude, said he does not see, from the contents of the “letter of accusation” where the contention lies, and that it seems the two sides simply can’t sit together face to face and work it out. He urged the two sides not to betray the fans, and to find a way for Takanohana not to end up quitting.
Associates of Chiganoura oyakata say that he received Takanohana’s request to take in his deshi by telephone, at noon, right before Takanohana handed in his “retirement papers”, and was bewildered by it. “It was a one-sided phone call”, pointed the associates.
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.