Board Meeting News

On May 27th, a regular meeting of the NSK’s board has taken place. The main points of interest are:

Araiso oyakata to start a new heya

The board approved the request of former Kisenosato, now Araiso oyakata, to split away from Tagonoura beya, and start his own heya. Araiso beya will become reality as of this August. At first, it will take residence at Tsukuba city in Ibaraki prefecture (Araiso’s home prefecture), and a permanent one will be built in the city of Ami in Inashiki District of the same prefecture.

Araiso is to take 4 wrestlers and a gyoji with him. The wrestlers are freshmen Nishihara, Taniguchi and Kato, who have joined Grand Sumo in Haru, and set foot on dohyo for the first time in Natsu basho, and veteran Adachi, who joined at around the same time Kisenosato did.

(Usually an oyakata who splits off takes only his uchi-deshi – rikishi he recruited with the intention of establishing his own heya – together with him from his old heya. Adachi is an exception, and I think the reasoning behind it is that with three complete novices, a heya required a seasoned anideshi to teach them the off-dohyo “way of sumo”).

Decision about Asanoyama has not been made yet

Apparently, the investigation into Asanoyama’s shenanigans turned out to be complex, and is still on-going. Another board meeting is set for June, but Shibatayama oyakata, the NSK’s spokesperson, said the investigation will not necessarily be complete by then.

A decision has been made about Ryuden

Ryden has been found guilty of breaking the NSK’s COVID regulations, having gone on unnecessary outings 25 times between March 2020 and January 2021, for the purpose of seeing a woman who was not his wife. Those meeting happened mostly during basho, some just before it.

Ryuden’s punishment is a suspension for 3 basho, including Natsu basho, which he has already spent kyujo. He should be back by November, and will likely be ranked at Makushita by then.

Ryuden’s shisho, Takadagawa oyakata, has been punished with a reduction of 20% of his salary for 6 months.

Nagoya basho will be held without vaccinations

Although an earlier plan has been to vaccinate all the rikishi and staff in June, this seems to have been set aside, probably due to the slow progress of vaccinations in Japan.

The basho will still take place at Nagoya, and all involved will undergo a PCR test before traveling there. The plans are to:

  • Hold the new recruit checkup at the Kokugikan on June 18th
  • Publish the banzuke on June 21st
  • Hold PCR tests over the 23rd and 24th
  • Each heya will depart for Nagoya after completing the PCR test.

Asanoyama absent from day 12 due to COVID guideline violations

Asanoyama (from NSK’s IG)

Day 11 has been a very exciting day in Grand Sumo. Unfortunately, not exactly for the reasons we would hope for.

During the second half of the Makuuchi matches, a Japanese tabloid dropped a bomb shell. It revealed that Ozeki Asanoyama has been repeatedly visiting a specific hostess club, including a visit on April 30 and one on May 7th, which was aborted due to the rag’s car being detected.

The dates are significant because the NSK COVID regulations require rikishi to refrain from unnecessary outings and mixing with people who are not heya members during the time between the publishing of the banzuke and senshuraku. The banzuke was published on April 26th. So while a young man going to a seedy club, under normal circumstances, is his own business, this was definitely a breach of regulations, similar to the one perpetrated by Abi and the former Gokushindo.

Apparently, the compliance committee has heard the accusation earlier than the publication, and questioned the Ozeki about it on May 18th. He said that “the accusation was groundless”, and this is what Shibatayama, the association’s spokesperson, said to the accredited press when they came to ask about this story.

This meant that Asanoyama continued with his day of Sumo as usual.

But the published scoop was not something to be brushed aside so easily. The item includes details such as the specific club, the times of the visits, a description of Asanoyama wearing a hood over his head, and ordering champagne to celebrate one of the hostesses who was quitting the job. And of course a couple of photographs of him in a taxi next to the club and then later next to the heya, fuzzy and ambiguous though they were.

At this point the Toyama man was questioned again, reconsidered his reply and admitted to “part of the story”. He will be kyujo as of day 12, giving Takayasu the freebie win.

It’s expected that he will face a severe punishment, possibly more severe than Abi’s. While in his favor stands the fact that he has no prior offenses, the rank of Ozeki carries a greater burden of responsibility. And then there is lying in his initial questioning. It’s not just a breach of regulations, it’s also a breach of trust.

Unfortunately, this was not the only scandal of the day, though the other two have yet to be acknowledged by the NSK or the mainstream media, so should be taken with much caution:

  • Yesterday it has been published that Asahiyama beya’s okami-san has been verbally abusing the heya’s deshi, causing some of them to retire (including their best prospect so far, Kirameki, though the article doesn’t name him).
  • (This tabloid is even less credible) – The reason Ryuden has been kyujo is an affair he has had with a woman for three years, including her getting pregnant and him demanding that she abort the fetus, and attempting to silence her with money. It is not clear in what way this has been a violation of the COVID regulations. The tabloid got Ryuden’s attorney’s comment: “The matter is under investigation of the NSK compliance committee so we cannot comment”.

Shikihide Stable Scarpering Scandal

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.

I would like to note the close timing with the friction between Nakagawa Oyakata and a group of wrestlers, Abi’s Cabaret Club visit with another unnamed wrestler, and Tagonoura oyakata’s own dinner out where he was caught intoxicated on social media. Apologies for the massive run-on sentence but there has been almost as much drama off the dohyo as on it.

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.

Abi hands in intai documents

Japanese press reports that Abi has handed in his intai documents, according to Shikoroyama oyakata.

The board convenes on August 6th to discuss his punishment, and will also decide whether or not to accept his resignation. However, the chances of it not being accepted are said to be slim.