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.