Nine wrestlers from Shikihide Stable have left the heya, appealing to the Kyokai for help from moral harassment. The wrestlers left claiming that the stable’s okamisan had imposed and enforced unacceptably strict rules in the absence of Shikihide-oyakata due to an unspecified illness.
There are nineteen total wrestlers at Shikihide stable. The identities of the wrestlers involved have not been disclosed. The nature of Shikihide’s illness has not been disclosed, either, but he has been kyujo from tournaments this year. He usually manages the jungyo tours which have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Tachiai wishes him well and hopefully he will recover soon and hopefully some arrangement and solution can be found for the stable.
Sadly, we may have lost Abi. If he’s out, surely one must wonder about the lower-ranked wrestler who went with him…and now almost half of Shikihide beya? The heya life has become exceedingly difficult under COVID restrictions. Wrestlers have been virtually cloistered for months. It is understandable and perhaps predictable that tensions are high and tempers have flared. I hope these little fires can be contained, perhaps by loosening of these restrictions on movement and social media before it’s too late.
A special board meeting has been held today, July 13th, which covered a lot of ground. One of the main subjects on the menu was the Nakagawa scandal.
Some more details were revealed about the nature of Nakagawa oyakata’s deeds. It turns out the abuse was not merely verbal. There were isolated acts of violence toward three of the 9 rikishi in the heya, accompanied by repeated daily verbal abuse, not limited to the practice grounds.
In February, rikishi A was carrying food sloppily. The oyakata accompanied his admonition not to spill the food with a punch to the middle of his face.
During Haru basho last March, rikishi B was supposed to handle goods that were sent to the heya’s lodging and did it incorrectly or inappropriately. He was sitting cross-legged, when the oyakata kicked him (once) in the back and added a slap.
The same rikishi B nodded off while riding a taxi back to the heya’s lodging on another occasion during that same basho. The oyakata got angry, and once at the lodging, made him sit seiza, and in addition to admonishing him, added three kicks to his stomach and two punches to his chest.
Last year, rikishi C came back from degeiko, and the oyakata did not like the way his obi was tied, and told him off, embellishing the admonition with a punch to his temple.
From January through March, the oyakata repeatedly verbally abused those three rikishi, on and off the practice grounds.
So it may come as a surprise to some of our readers, knowing that the NSK has a newly-minted strict no-violence policy, holding coaching staff to a high degree of responsibility, that the punishment Nakagawa oyakata receives was a demotion of two ranks.
Chairman Hakkaku explained that the perpetrator did not use any implements, there were no injuries, and since the victims accepted the oyakata’s apology and did not seek heavy punishment, the board decided to settle for this demotion.
The heya, however, has been disbanded. Thoroughly.
The usual procedure when a heya closes is to move everybody together. It has happened in the past that a heya was split, but it’s rather unusual for the members to be cast over three different ichimon, no more than two in the same place (three, if you count the oyakata).
Some background details:
Kyokusoten is Tamawashi’s brother-in-law, which explains the choice of Kataonami beya.
Kasugaryu and Haruhikari serve as Hakuho’s tsukebito. In fact, Kasugaryu also used to perform the bow twirling ceremony – a duty that usually falls to a Yokozuna’s tsukebito. It may seem strange that Tokitsukaze men serve a yokozuna from Isegahama ichimon, but their old heya – Kasugayama – used to belong to the Isegahama/Tatsunami ichimon. Well, now they are back.
Yoshizawa and Okunisato are twins. Yet they have been assigned to separate heya in different ichimon.
Kyokuyuko’s danpatsu-shiki was held yesterday at Nakagawa beya. He decided that Nakagawa will be his last master (most of the rikishi in the heya have been through three masters already).
Team Tachiai hopes that the former heya members will find their new heya welcoming and that their preparations for the basho next week will be minimally affected.
Japanese sports news outlets report that Nakagawa oyakata is facing either a “recommendation to retire” or a dismissal, following a case of verbal abuse.
The compliance committee has already investigated the case, and the decision on the punishment is expected to be made as part of the board meeting planned for July 13th.
However, the heya’s wrestlers have already been seen preparing for a move.
It also appears that the rikishi will not be moved as one unit to another heya, but rather distributed among several heya. Furthermore, it appears some of them will choose retirement.
At the moment, not many details are known about the incident. It appears the oyakata made remarks toward a deshi which can be construed as “power harassment” as the Japanese define it. Another rikishi has recorded the incident and passed the recorded material to the NSK.