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.

Ichinojo Suspended for Hatsu 2023

The Kyokai held a board meeting on Monday to address a conflict between Ichinojo and his stable. The conflict involved allegations of Ichinojo’s excessive drinking on numerous occasions which had escalated to the point where he had assaulted Minato-oyakata’s wife and not only moved out of the stable but skipped keiko, wouldn’t eat with the stable, etc. Minato-oyakata attempted to correct Ichinojo’s behavior but the situation has become increasingly strained leading up to Ichinojo’s championship win in July, and it has continued afterwards. Over the course of the investigation, the board learned that Ichinojo had gone out in contravention of covid protocols, thus the suspension. His suspension is not as severe as Asanoyama’s and Abi’s because he had gone to restaurants instead of “cabaret” clubs, or hostess clubs and he also did not lie to the board.

Ichinojo is ranked Maegashira 7 East for the upcoming tournament but it’s not clear whether his suspension will drop him out of the top division. He will be just at the cusp of demotion so it’s conceivable that the collective performance of the four Sekiwake and four Komusubi might be the deciding factor of whether he hangs onto the bottom rung or lands at the top of Juryo. If there is a 6-man sanyaku in March, there could be 18 rungs on the Hiramaku ladder. Hidenoumi’s suspension from Maegashira 8 resulted in a fall to Juryo 2 with 17 Maegashira ranks.

Nagoya Story 1 – The Return of Asanoyama

A few years ago, there was a bright, happy up and coming rikishi with the shikona “Asanoyama”. He caught my eye because he seemed really happy to be competing. Even when he lost, he had an expression of “I can’t believe I am here, and being paid for sumo!”. With such a love for the sport, it’s really no surprise that he trained hard, and from that training came success. He battled his way up the ranks to become Ozeki. He even had the unusual distinction of being handed “The President’s Cup” by the US President during a state visit to Japan.

But a year ago, he was removed from competition during the 2021 Natsu basho, ostensibly for violating “COVID protocols”. Like so many things in Japan, the initial report was a broad euphemism for a pattern of breaking isolation at the heya to keep the rikishi from getting sick. When confronted with his behavior, he made the grave mistake of lying to the kyokai, trying to pretend it did not happen, and maybe it would all go away. Bad move for anyone, double-bad for someone as prestigious as an Ozeki. The kyokai came down on him fairly hard, though not as harsh as I had expected – which would have been immediate intai.

Instead he was handed a one year suspension from competition. As a result, his rank has been dropping on every banzuke published since, with his ranking for Natsu 2022 being Makushita 42. With his year of punishment now complete, we will see Asanoyama back in competition in the sweat-box of Nagoya. I expect him to be ranked around Sandanme 30 or so. The bigger question will be his condition.

He’s still got the skill of an Ozeki, though his sumo was a bit tepid prior to being caught breaking COVID protocols. It should still be more than enough to completely shatter anyone in Sandanme. I am curious on how he has spent the past year. Was he just going through the motions? Or did he decide that he was going to emerge on the other side of this shameful incident an unstoppable sumo machine?

I am eager to find out, and ever since the departure of Wakaichiro, I have not really had too much of an interest in Sandanme sumo. That all changes in July.

How do you, dear readers, feel about Asanoyama’s return? Let us know in the comments.

More COVID-19 cases

In addition to the 6 rikishi and oyakata at Takasago beya of whom we have already informed you, another low-ranking rikishi in the same heya has been confirmed positive on July 30.

Also, a low-ranking rikishi from another heya also tested positive July 30.

Note that when sekitori/oyakata are not involved, the NSK does not release names or the name of the heya for privacy reasons.