Takanoiwa Withdraws from Hatsu Basho


Takanoiwa Yoshimori, the victim at the centre of the Harumafuji scandal that rocked sumo in November of last year, has officially withdrawn from competition for the 2018 Hatsu Basho, citing the cranial injury he sustained after being repeatedly struck with a karaoke controller by the former Yokozuna Harumafuji. Takanoiwa missed the entirety of the Kyushu Basho due to the same head injury and was subsequently demoted from the top division to the rank of Juryo 3. Given the circumstances surrounding his injury and having provided the proper medical assessment, the Japanese Sumo Association has declared that Takanoiwa will not receive another demotion for missing the Hatsu Basho.

While many were devastated by the retirement of Harumafuji, it’s important to not blame the victim in this situation. We at Tachiai hope that Takanoiwa makes a full recovery and returns to the top division once more.

Yokozuna Harmuafuji Incident Heads To A Prosecutor


Harumafuji-Questioned

In an article in today’s Japan Times, it is reported that police have decided to refer Takanoiwa’s assault by Yokozuna Harumafuji to a prosecutor for adjudication. This does not mean that Haruamfuji will be charged with a crime, simply that police think there is sufficient evidence to allow a lawyer for the state to decide if he should be charged with assault.

During police questioning, Harumafuji did admit to hitting Takanoiwa with his open hands, his fists and the remote to a karaoke machine during an attempt to discipline Takanoiwa for poor manners. It should be noted that both rikishi were intoxicated at the time. The incident happened in front of a sizable contingent of sumotori during an overnight stop on sumo’s fall jungyo promotional tour.

It has been reported that both Harumafuji and Takanoiwa are cooperating with police. The same cannot be said for the Sumo Kyokai’s investigation, where Takanoiwa and Takanoiwa’s Oyakata, the former Yokozuna Takanohana, are impeding progress. Takanohana’s behavior in the matter, and in the events leading up to the scandal breaking during the Kyushu basho, have been difficult to understand. Reports in the past week have suggested that Takanohana, who leads the jungyo promotional tour segment of the Sumo Kyokai, will be suspended for not maintaining proper order and discipline.

For fans wondering what action the Sumo Kyokai will take, I suggest that we will have no word until the final day of the Kyushu basho on Sunday the 26th. Typically the Yokozuna Deliberation Council meets following each tournament, and there will likely be a good deal of commentary from that body.

NHK World Harumafuji Update


harumafuji

During the day Friday, US Time, NHK World has been leading their broadcast (video at the link) with an update on the investigation into Harumafuji’s assault of Takanoiwa. Leading the report is news that Harumafuji told police investigators that he did attack Takanoiwa, but only used his hands, rather than a beer bottle as earlier reports stated.

This comes on the back of reports this morning Japan time that the health report filed by Takanoiwa and his Oyakata, former Yokozuna Takanohana, may have included descriptions of injuries sustained well before his hospitalization. This includes the skull fracture and the cerebral-spinal fluid reported in Takanoiwa’s ears. From Tachiai’s own lead Japanese press-hawk, Herouth;

 

 

As well as this translation:

 

If true, this departs greatly from the events that were reported when the story broke earlier this week, and greatly change the context of the scandal.  Tachiai will continue to track this story as the investigation continues.

Everything You Need to Know After Act One


 

With the first act of the Kyushu basho coming to an end, here is a quick rundown of everything you need to know to get all caught up.

Yusho Race

Five days in and the leaderboard has already dwindled down to three men, all with perfect records. Maegashira 13 Aminishiki, Ozeki Goeido, and a very genki Yokozuna Hakuho have five wins each and are neck and neck in the yusho race. Behind them with four wins are Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Arawashi, and surprisingly, Okinoumi. I expect this group to be much smaller by the end of act two.

Kinboshi

So far, there have been three kinboshi surrendered this basho. Tamawashi earned the first of these gold star victories on day 1 when he defeated Yokozuna Kisenosato. Up and comer Takakeisho claimed the other two when he beat Harumafuji on day 2 and Kisenosato on day 4.

Kyujo and Absences

There are currently six men on the banzuke who have pulled out of the competition. Ura, Takanoiwa and Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew citing health issues before the start of the basho. Aoiyama joined them on day 3 after sustaining an ankle injury in his match with Okinoumi. Day 3 would also see Yokozuna Harumafuji pull out of the competition following accusations of an assault on Takanoiwa during the October jungyo tour. After four straight losses, former Ozeki Terunofuji withdrew on day 5 to address the multiple health issues that have been plaguing him as of late.

Tozai-Sei

On day 1, I mentioned that I would be keeping track of the unofficial Tozai-sei Championship going on between the East and West sides of the banzuke. The Tozai-sei was an award used in the early 20th century and was given to the side of the banzuke with the most wins, and I’ve decided to resurrect it for a bit of added fun this basho. The rules are simple: for every win a rikishi gets, his side receives a point. After five days, the West leads the East with a record of 53 to 46. This lead is no doubt thanks to Aminishiki, Ichinojo, Takayasu, and Hakuho, who have a combined 18 points thus far. The top point earners on the East side are Okinoumi, Mitakeumi, and Goeido, who have 14 points between them.

With day 6 set to start in just a few short hours, there are still so many great sumo highlights to look forward to as the Kyushu basho rolls on.

Whither… Takanoiwa?


Takanoiwa
There’s still him.

As Bruce did a great job of detailing, Harumafuji is in hot water for his role in potentially putting Takanoiwa out of action for quite some time and inflicting what may potentially be some degree of lasting damage to the head of his fellow rikishi. Much of the speculation, owing to the shocking nature of this incident and Harumafuji’s standing as a Yokozuna, has been around the subject of intai (by his choice or the association’s), what kind of punishment might be forthcoming, or what Harumafuji’s life will be like going forward.

But let’s not forget there is another side of this as well, and that’s the future of Takanoiwa’s career. Obviously, he has received extensive hospital treatment, and it’s unclear where and when we will see him functioning again on the dohyo as we have seen him function before. This passage from the Japan Times article on the scandal caught my eye:

Takanoiwa, 27, was one of the early withdrawals from the Nov. 12-26 tournament. He is expected to miss the entire meet and be demoted to the lower juryo rank at the meet in January.

It is certainly true that anyone kyujo from the entire tournament from the level of Maegashira 8 under normal injury circumstances would be demoted to Juryo. It has happened 14 times in the last 40 years and in the 9 of those times that the kōshō seido system was not applied, the rikishi concerned ended up ranked between J3 and J7 on the banzuke for the following basho.

However, these are not normal circumstances – and they also fall at a time when there have been renewed calls from luminaries of the sumo world (as well as, for what it’s worth, from these pages) to reconsider a reinstatement or a replacement for kōshō seido. While this isn’t a new thing (and you can find hot debates on sites like sumoforum about this, going back at least ten years), the increase in injuries certainly makes the conversation more relevant. John Gunning recently doubled down on the comments he made in the Japan Times regarding the size of rikishi during the NHK World Sumo Preview episode, the training regimen for fitness and injury recovery has been scrutinised in light of failed recoveries by key competitors, and the rigorous Jungyo schedule has not only strained the health of sekitori further but was the time during which the above incident occurred.

One should wonder then, whether special consideration will be given to Takanoiwa’s rank for Hatsu 2018 (if he is able to compete). After all, it is not like this was a normal injury caused on the dohyo or even the case of a clumsy accident at home: if the reports are correct, he was taken out of commission by an act of another rikishi for which there is an ongoing police investigation. If this special consideration to preserve Takanoiwa’s rank is given, could that then be a springboard to a new system that enables rikishi to get urgent appropriate medical attention in order to preserve their rank for even just one tournament?

There are no definitive answers to that latter question right now. But at a time when there’s seemingly nothing good coming out of this saga (the potential loss of a great – and sometimes also good – yokozuna’s career, a rikishi with potentially life changing injuries), the Association has an opportunity to reserve insult from injury. I, for one, hope they mark out this extraordinary circumstance, and allow Takanoiwa to resume his career in the division in which he has worked to establish himself over the past couple of years.

Sumo’s Harumafuji Scandal


Harumafuji-Press

Overview

The story broke Monday evening US time, and when I read the first version (published in a ridiculously large font on Sponichi), I could not actually believe what I was reading.  Granted it was all in Kanji, so I assumed that I had completely blown the translation. The core of the story was that during a Jungyo tour stop in Tottori in late October, Harumafuji attended a dinner party with a number of Mongolian rikishi. Over the course of the dinner, many of the rikishi became intoxicated.

During the course of their drinking and carrying on, Takanoiwa took a blow to the head that resulted in damage to his skull, his brain, his inner ear and general mayhem. Now it seems that this blow was delivered by Yokozuna Harumafuji, wielding a beer bottle.

The story was not immediately reported, but the press started digging when Takanoiwa was kyujo from day 1, with a rather worrisome list of injuries. At the start of day 3, the Japanese press exploded with the news. It was deemed important enough that it even appeared on NHK World’s English language news broadcast an hour after it broke.

In spite of my early disbelief in such an outrageous and sensational story could be true, the wide broadcast of the basics of the story seem to indicate there is some veracity to the claims.

takanoiwa

Time Line

  • October 26th – (day) Jungyo tour stop in Tottori
  • October 26th – (evening) Nikkan Sports has put together the details of the story based on evidence from participants and/or their heya staff. There was a dinner party in which all three Mongolian Yokozuna, as well as Terunofuji and Takanoiwa, who are considered “Local” in Tottori, having gone to high school there, and a few Japanese rikishi and others, totaling around 10 people, took part.The party itself went well enough, but then the participants continued to an after-party. It was at this point that some of those present became inebriated. Harumafuji took exception to the greeting he was given by Takanoiwa, which he deemed was insufficient, and started berating him, when Takanoiwa’s smartphone, stuck in his obi, started ringing. As Takanoiwa attempted to answer the call, the Yokozuna exclaimed “Not when somebody is talking to you!”, took a beer bottle and smashed it on the right side of Takanoiwa’s forehead.Takanoiwa fell down bleeding, and the Yokozuna dropped on top of him and continued to deliver some additional 20-30 blows with his bare hands, while Takanoiwa tried to fend him off. Apparently, Terunofuji, who was within range, also received some of the blows.Hakuho tried to come in between the parties and end the fight, only to be thrusted away by the enraged Harumafuji, who also snapped at Kakuryu: “It’s all because of you, you’re not guiding his behavior”.
  • October 26th – (night) Takanoiwa receives initial medical attention.
  • October 29th – Takanohana (Takanoiwa’s Oyakata) files a police report, detailing the assault.
  • November 3rd – Kasugano oyakata and head of Crisis Management Kagamiyama oyakata have telephone conversations with Isegahama oyakata and Takanohana oyakata to understand what happened.
  • November 5th – 9th – Takanoiwa is admitted to a Fukuoka hospital.  He stays for 5 days.
  • November 10th – Takanoiwa reports kyujo for the Kyushu basho.
  • November 12th – Takanoiwa hands the Sumo Kyokai his medical certificate which he receives from the Fukuoka hospital: Concussion (脳震盪); laceration on the front left of the head (左前頭部裂傷); external inflammation of the right ear (右外耳道炎); fractured skull (右中頭蓋底骨折); suspected cerebrospinal fluid leak (髄液漏の疑い).
  • November 13th – Details of the assault appear first in Sponichi, then rapidly spread throughout the Japanese press. When questioned by the press, he does not deny the attack, but instead apologies for the embarrassment and problems he has caused. Harumafuji and Isegahama Oyakata travel to the Kyushu location of Takanohana, but former Yokozuna Takanohana deftly avoided any interaction with the Isegahama delegation. The scene created some very somber and depressing photographs of Harumafuji.

Fallout

Simply put, Yokozuna Harumafuji is done. As a Yokozuna, he holds a high rank not only in the Sumo world, but in Japanese society. He has caused a tremendous loss of mentsu (メンツ), meaning reputation (literally “face”) for himself, his Oyakata, the Sumo Association and many others.

I have no doubt that Harumafuji takes his Yokozuna rank quite seriously, and I would guess he has already offered multiple times to fall on his sword and resign his rank and leave the world of sumo. I am also sure that will happen soon, but only after the Sumo Association figure out a way for him to do it while minimizing the damage to sumo as a whole.

This entire episode is sad, depressing an horrific.  Harumafuji did something really unacceptable, but at the same time he has been behind in a number of really kind and generous acts across the years. I can’t help but wonder if this is being cast in the worst possible light right now for some other reason.

Likely Outcomes

Harumafuji apologies in the most profound way, and resigns his role as Yokozuna, and fades away.  This is a given, the only question is if he will be allowed to resign or if the Sumo Kyokai will insist on ejecting him as a display of their control over sumo.

Jungyo will be altered, within a few short weeks we have seen a the press cite the intense jungyo schedule for a breakdown in sumo training, and now we have a high profile event that could be used to claim a breakdown in discipline during jungyo.

Damage for Takanohana, as the NSK’s man handling the Jungyo, and the Oyakata for Takanoiwa, a lot of this insanity came on his watch. He has, perhaps, suffered the greatest amount of embarrassment.

Damage for Isegahama, for some time, they have been a leading stable. Now they are about to lose their Yokozuna in disgrace, their Ozeki is damaged beyond repair, and their reputation is in tatters.

Damage for the Sumo Kyokai, sumo had been in a well earned ascendence both in Japan, and globally.  Scandals happen in every public endeavor, but if Harumafuji’s behavior is as described above, it does incalculable damage to sumo’s brand and reputation. This is especially acute for the rest of the Mongolian rikishi cohort, who already endure some public scorn because they are not Japanese.

For the Japanese press’ take on the matter, this report from the Japan Times is worth the read.  Sadly the article is quick to label the entire sport as “yet to improve its reputation tainted by scandals over match-fixing, violence and bullying”

For readers who are willing to wade into Kanji web sites, some links to help you come to grips with the story:

https://www.nikkansports.com/battle/sumo/news/201711140000699.html

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2017/11/14/kiji/20171114s00005000046000c.html

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2017/11/14/kiji/20171114s00005000076000c.html

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20171114/sum17111423060029-n1.html

Who’s That Rikishi #8: Takanoiwa Yoshimori


TakanoiwaAge: 27
Birth Name: Adiya Baasandorj
Home Town: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Stable: Takanohana
Highest Rank: Maegashira 2

Born in Ulaanbaatar in 1990, the future Takanoiwa Yoshimori was introduced to Japan’s national sport when the sumo coach from Johoku High School came looking for Mongolian talent to join his team. Having passed the selection test, he moved to Japan when he was sixteen and began honing his skills at Johoku. In 2008 he joined Takanohana beya to train under his childhood idol, former Yokozuna Takanohana. After a successful première at the 2009 Haru basho, Takanoiwa was promoted to Jonidan for the May tournament, where he recorded a perfect 7-0 record but lost the division yusho in a playoff. He won his first championship two basho later when he once again recorded a 7-0 record and took home the Kyushu Sandanme yusho. Takanoiwa’s championship performance earned him a promotion up the banzuke into the Makushita division in January, but he struggled to find success. Takanoiwa’s luck didn’t improve in early 2011, as he was forced to pull out part way through the Natsu basho and missed the entirety of the Nagoya basho due to injury. As a result, he found himself back in the Sandanme division upon his return. Unperturbed, Takanoiwa won six of his seven matches in September and was promoted back to Makushita. Another 6-1 record in Kyushu put him in contention for the Makushita yusho, but another playoff loss cost him the championship.

Takanoiwa made his Juryo debut in July of 2012, but subsequent back-to-back make-koshi nearly cost him his position in the division. He had a return to form for the 2013 Hatsu basho and took the Juryo yusho with an impressive twelve wins. The rest of the year saw Takanoiwa produce winning records in four out of the five remaining tournaments, and he broke into sumo’s top rank at the beginning of 2014. He returned to Juryo three tournaments later, after suffering a staggering thirteen losses at the May basho. The Mongolian rikishi would spend the next year and a half in and out of Makuuchi until cementing his place in the division in early 2016. Takanoiwa’s first top division success came at the 2016 Nagoya basho, where he finished second place behind Harumafuji and was awarded his first sansho special prize for fighting spirit. Following this incredible performance, he was promoted to Maegashira 3 for Aki, but struggled against the joi and fell back into the middle of Makuuchi by November. 2017 started with a bang for Takanoiwa, who collected eleven wins, including one kinboshi victory over Hakuho. Beating the Dai-Yokozuna had a tremendous impact on the Hatsu basho and the sumo world, as it cost Hakuho the Emperor’s Cup and lead to Kisenosato picking up the long-sought-after yusho he needed to become the first Japanese born Yokozuna since Takanoiwa’s own oyakata, Takanohana, retired in 2003. For his efforts, Takanoiwa was awarded his first outstanding performance award and his highest rank to date, Maegashira 2. Once again the joi proved to be too much for Takanoiwa, who fell back to the mid-Magashira where he remains to this day. When meeting his opponents on the Dohyo, Takanoiwa mainly employs yotsu-zumo to win his bouts. His preferred grip is a left hand outside right hand inside migi-yotsu. His most common kimarite is a yori-kiri force out, but he is known to employ an uwatenage overarm throw to win as well.


Takanoiwa (left) vs. Goeido (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=11724
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=3146
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takanoiwa_Yoshimori