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.

Michinoku-Beya Violence Scandal Update

Tachiai needs to close the loop on the most recent scandal to hit the sumo world which forced me to resurrect the scandal counter. Regular readers will remember that just before the Natsu basho Yasunishi, a junior wrestler at Michinoku-Beya, went to the press in order to call out a stablemate (revealed as Kirinofuji) for bullying. The allegations included verbal and physical abuse. Yasunishi’s protestations were apparently met with a tepid response from Michinoku-oyakata thus the need to go to the press and force his hand, with apparent support of another stablemate.

Kirinofuji retired but that is not the end of the story. We found out today that the Kyokai investigated the way that Michinoku handled the situation and found fault with the way that he minimized or dismissed the allegations. Michinoku will be docked 20% of his salary for 3 months and lost his position as head of operations, though he retains a position on the board.

After repeated rules violations by deshi, Tokiwayama-oyakata and more recently Isegahama-oyakata, suffered harsh demotions. The lesson should be clear. Michinoku will need to watch his junior deshi a bit closer now and act proactively to tackle bullying and harassment in his stable.

Michinoku-Beya Violence Scandal

The last thing Michinoku-oyakata wants right now is to rock the boat. His star pupil, Kiribayama, is on the cusp of an Ozeki-run with this tournament being the most pivotal. Unfortunately, Herouth comes to us with news on Twitter that Kirinofuji is accused of multiple acts of violence against his heya-mate, Yasunishi. The details are unpleasant to say the least, which included acts of physical as well as verbal abuse in a campaign “intended as education.”

It’s always difficult to parse through these scandals without trying to understand all sides. Why would Michinoku-oyakata and team attempt to minimize the abuse? Is it to avoid scandal and close the matter quickly, or did they genuinely feel the abuse was somehow legitimate or somehow excusable? The assertion that this is how brothers are…when the allegations include shooting with an airgun and being hit with a pan…rings a bit hollow.

It’s good to hear that in this case it seems Yasunishi has been getting some good counsel (and possible support from) an unnamed anideshi. But it’s extremely difficult to see how such behavior will be rooted out of the sport if it is minimized to this degree to where, up until the Kirinofuji intai, it’s basically being passed off as acceptable. Yes, there are horseplay and disagreements…but then there’s abuse. It’s important for the sport that its leaders and management be able to discern the difference and act appropriately, which does not appear to have happened in this case. Thus, the scandal-meter is unfortunately back. (Hint: Pans are for cooking, not attitude adjustment. Airsoft is for the Airsoft venue with appropriate protective equipment, not enforcement of chores or status.)

Isegahama Bullying Incident Leads Oyakata to Resign from Board

It’s Two-Fer-One Tuesday, I mean Monday, here at Tachiai! The holidays have offered up a real backlog of scandals! We’re practically giving them away!

From Jalopnik

Andy, you’d make a terrible pitch man. Just say you don’t have a picture of Isegahama and get on with the news, buddy.

While the Ichinojo thing has actually been stewing for a few months and has found some resolution (for now), another revelation has taken us by surprise today. There’s been a bullying situation at Isegahama-beya involving three wrestlers from the lower-ranks.

We do not know the identities of the wrestlers officially, yet, but two wrestlers were apparently bullying a third. The bullying included the victim being physically punched and stomped, as well as burned with chanko. One of the bullies has been forced to retire while the other is suspended for two tournaments. Isegahama has resigned from his post on the Board of Directors.

This is certainly a sad situation which has cost at least one wrestler his career. Isegahama-beya has had several recent new recruits and a few banzuke-gai, so it’s certainly not clear at this point what impact it will have on the stable. Sadly, there will be more to come on this story.