Today, Takanoiwa’s danpatsu-shiki, the ceremonial cutting of the top-knot, took place on the dohyo at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. Sumo fans who did not read about the reconciliation between Harumafuji and Takanoiwa, may have been surprised to see this:
And even those who knew about the reconciliation, may have been surprised at another consequence of it:
And, perhaps less surprisingly, Kakuryu was there as well:
Indeed, it seemed every Mongolian sekitori showed up: Tamawashi, Arawashi, Chiyoshoma and, of course, Ichinojo, all snipped a strand of hair, as did members of Takanoiwa’s own heya:
As has been speculated, Takanoiwa’s original stablemaster, Takanohana, absented himself from this ceremony, and chose, instead, to show up for an assembly of his support group in Nagoya. Comedian Kunihiro Matsumura, known, among others, for his impressions of the former Takanohana, filled in:
About 370 people participated. This may seem a small number for the 12,000 seat Kokugikan, but it should be noted that the tickets sold for this event all included both the ceremony itself and the party that followed it, so the limiting number was the capacity of the banquet hall, not the Kokugikan itself – and the tickets sold out. The other day I reported that only 90 tickets were sold – but in fact, whatever was allotted was sold. Here is a summary of the ceremony:
A quick shave-and-a-hair-cut, and I give you Takanoiwa in his new form:
The party after the ceremony included a Mongolian band:
As well as karaoko! Here is the man of the hour:
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you Chiganoura oyakata’s karaoke, because he is one of the best singers in the Sumo world.
And so, it appears that the reconciliation indeed helped the ceremony become a respectable, well-attended occasion.
But it may have done more than bring Hakuho to softly lay his hands on Takanoiwa’s shoulders.
Meet Takanoiwa’s nephew, Sukhbat
In March 2018, Takanoiwa’s nephew, Sukhbat, son of his second eldest brother (Takanoiwa is the youngest of five siblings) was looking for a heya.
Sukhbat was 19 at the time, graduating at the same time as the famous Naya, and from the same school, Saitama Sakae, which has a very strong sumo program. This is the same school Takakeisho graduated from.
This was before Haru 2018. The boy was practicing with his uncle at Takanohana beya’s Osaka facility, but of course could not join that heya, as Takanoiwa himself occupied the foreigner slot. So he was looking for a heya that was willing to take someone who finished third in the inter-high sumo tournament, in time for the new recruits exams of the haru basho… but there were no takers.
This was in the middle of the Harumafuji scandal. Haru 2018 was the first basho Takanoiwa was to attend after the “incident”. And heya were distancing themselves from the matter, apparently.
But he didn’t find one in Natsu, and in Nagoya, and in Aki… you get the drift. With his uncle’s own retirement, it seemed that the world of sumo was willing to give out on this supposedly talented wrestler.
And then we had the reconciliation. Then suddenly…
Sukhbat is going to join Onoe beya. He will probably undergo the new recruit examination in Haru, but will only be able to do his mae-zumo in Natsu, as is usual for foreign recruits.
So, of course, temporal succession does not necessarily imply causation. But with foreigner slots being a limited resource, and the Japanese natural suspicion of anything foreign, it makes sense that any foreigner wanting to join the world of sumo would need an intercessor or sponsor to speak for him. Apparently the well-oiled Mongolian recruiting machine was not working for Sukhbat until just recently. He is now 20 years old. Let’s hope he has kept himself in shape!
Takanoiwa and Harumafuji reconcile. Harumafuji to attend Takanoiwa’s danpatsu-shiki.
On the evening of January 17th, shortly after the Day 5 action of the Hatsu basho has ended, two men arrived separately at a fancy Japanese restaurant in Akasaka, Tokyo. The two, known to us as former Yokozuna Harumafuji and former Maegashira Takanoiwa, were there to bury the hatchet. They enjoyed good food and discussed the future.
The meeting was a success. Following dinner, the former Yokozuna entered a black luxury car, and was soon followed by his fellow Mongolian, and the two were driven to Ginza, where they spent the rest of the evening having drinks together.
The news outlets reporting this meeting added that Harumafuji is to attend Takanoiwa’s danpatsu-shiki (ceremonial cutting of his top-knot) which will be held on February 2nd. The following day this has been confirmed by Chiganoura oyakata, who is in charge of Takanoiwa’s former heya, and is holding the ceremony for him. (Danpatsu-shiki are not given by the NSK, but rather by the individual heya, usually paid for by the heya’s koen-kai).
This finally puts the Harumafuji saga to rest.
A sad saga
The story began, as our readers may recall, on the night of October 25th, 2017, the night before the Aki Jungyo event at Tottori city. You can find the full details of the fateful after-party in previous posts. Harumafuji, annoyed with Takanoiwa for checking his phone while Hakuho was speaking to him, proceeded to beat him with bare hands and karaoke remote control, lacerating his skull to the degree that it required stapling. The whole affair would probably have gone under the radar, if word of it did not somehow get to the ears of Takanohana oyakata, Takanoiwa’s stablemaster, and at the time, the head of the Jungyo department.
The news broke out on the third day of the following Kyushu basho. Harumafuji went kyujo, and at the end of that tournament, took responsibility and retired. But what should have ended pretty much like the Asashoryu saga: a retirement, a settlement out-of-court, and that’s it, developed into a holy war between Takanohana and the NSK.
In particular, Takanohana refused to allow Harumafuji to settle this matter with Takanoiwa. In the absence of an out-of-court settlement, Harumafuji faced a summary indictment and paid a fine. Furthermore, Takanoiwa was prevented from showing up to Jungyo events and honbasho for quite a while following the incident, ending up at the bottom of Juryo. After making his first appearance in honbasho eventually (Haru 2018), he was once again absent from Jungyo, handing in a doctor’s certificate for PTSD – which apparently healed in time for the next honbasho (Natsu 2018).
A civil suit
How did an injury whose original medical certificate was for less than two weeks of rest, and which should not have prevented Takanoiwa from participating in any honbasho following the incident, develop into several months of absences, it’s hard to say for certain. My guess was that a big lawsuit was in the works.
But that civil suit took its time in materializing. In the meantime, Takanohana was demoted to the bottom rung of the NSK ranks. He filed a complaint about the NSK for that with the Government Office (the NSK is a tax-exempt organization and as such its governance is subject to government scrutiny). But when his young deshi, Takayoshitoshi (now Takanofuji), unwisely decided to beat up his tsukebito right in front of dozens of people in the shitaku-beya during the Haru 2018 tournament, Takanohana was forced to pull that complaint, to allow his deshi to keep his career.
Then one day at the end of September 2018, right after the end of the Aki basho, Takanohana announced that he is resigning the NSK, saying that he was “being forced to declare that the complaint to the government was unjustified, which he does not believe it was”. This was yet another media circus, which ended in the Takanohana beya being closed up, all its deshi being transferred to the care of a very surprised Chiganoura oyakata, and Takanohana leaving the NSK, getting a divorce and putting what was both his home and his heya out on the real-estate market. However, he did not let go of the Takanoiwa saga.
On October 3rd, 2018, Takanoiwa filed a civil suit against Harumafuji. That civil suit included all those lengthy medical expenses, damages, loss of income, etc., for the long absences I have mentioned above, to the tune of nearly ¥25,000,000. His new oyakata, Chiganoura, was not aware of this. The law firm behind the suit was the same law firm Takanohana (now back to his family name of Hanada) was using for his own affairs.
The lawyers on the Harumafuji side reacted with indignation, calling this an extortionist sum and declaring that they will fight it in court, as it was way above and beyond the real damages accrued by their client.
Once again, attempts at settlement out of court were blocked.
Public Shaming In Mongolia
It seems that Takanohana and his lawyers failed to predict all the consequences of that civil action. Back in Mongolia, people were outraged. Harumafuji is held in much respect by many in Mongolia, due to his philanthropic activities there. In particular, he recently established a school in Ulan-Baatar which is supposed to give young Mongolians a Japanese-style education. He invested about $12,000,000 in the establishment of that school of his own money, and also raised donations from others. His fans in his home land took a dim view of Takanoiwa’s “preposterous” law suit, and some of them started publicly shaming and physically harassing Takanoiwa’s family. It should be noted that neither of Takanoiwa’s parents is alive, and his family consists of siblings and their own families. They called him often to express their distress, and he couldn’t bear it any longer.
On October 30th, Takanoiwa announced that he will be pulling the suit. “I will pay for my own medical expenses… I want the harassment of my family to stop”, he said.
The reaction from the Harumafuji side was that it was “unthinkable that Mongolian Society would act in such a deplorable way towards the victim side”. While a bit cryptic, the reaction from the Takanohana side was much more dramatic. According to Takanoiwa’s koen-kai, the former oyakata immediately severed ties with his former deshi.
The next day, Harumafuji’s lawyers hinted that they think “perhaps Takanoiwa’s legal representatives were obstructing negotiations and misrepresenting their own offers”, and suggested that direct talks should take place between the sides.
The victim turns aggressor
Whether or not such direct talks indeed started at this point, we will probably never know. But we do know that shortly afterwards, during the 2018 Fuyu Jungyo, Takanoiwa, angry with his assigned tsukebito, Takataisho, for forgetting his purse in the previous Jungyo location, beat him up. When the attending oyakata found out, Takanoiwa was sent off to Tokyo, questioned together with his new oyakata, and sent off to await judgement at his heya. This was all too much for the victim-turned-aggressor, and he decided to leave the world of Sumo.
No red carpets were waiting for him out the door. The RIZIN pro-wrestling association, following the embarrassing Osunaarashi second scandal, announced that it wasn’t a dumping ground for sumo criminals (or something more polite but to the same effect). There was no invitation waiting for him there. Without education, without a civil profession, with burnt bridges in his home land, and now also without the support of his former oyakata (who made a public announcement that he will not allow Takanoiwa within his presence before he does 10 years of penitence), Takanoiwa was in a serious pinch.
A lonely danpatsu-shiki
His recent oyakata, Chiganoura, was acting very decently – appearing by his side in his news conference and bowing in apology together, appealing to the Chiganoura koen-kai to be kind to his short-time deshi in his new life, and arranging for that danpatsu-shiki at the Ryogoku Kokugikan to give him a respectable farewell. Chiganoura also invited Takanohana, as Takanoiwa’s former stablemaster. However, no indication was given that Takanohana was going to accept the invitation, and given the above, the likelihood that this would happen was very low indeed.
This ceremony, unlike Harumafuji’s (and the one planned for Kisenosato next September) is not going to include hana-zumo (a day of sumo, jinku, shokkiri etc). Hana-zumo requires the cooperation of the rikishi-kai, and is an expensive affair. It includes only the ceremony itself and an after-party. At the moment, only 90 tickets have been sold.
With Takanohana not attending, and an ongoing feud with the Harumafuji camp in the Mongolian community, news outlets were speculating that the event would turn out to be not just low-key, but a rather lonely affair.
So perhaps it is Takanohana absenting himself from the scene. Perhaps it was the prospect of a lonely farewell ceremony. And perhaps the reason was the new state of unemployment Takanoiwa found himself in. Whatever the reason, the overtures from Harumafuji’s side, long rejected, found an ear this time, and the two sides finally found a way to put one of the saddest, ugliest affairs in the world of Sumo in recent years to rest, and smoke the pipe of peace.
And the danpatsu-shiki? Harumafuji will attend it. Gossip columns tell us that Takanohana’s ex-wife, Takanoiwa’s former Okami-san, Keiko Kono, will also attend it. Whether ticket sales will increase as a result, and whether Harumafuji’s attendance will draw in more of the Mongolian community, we will learn in a few days.
Today has been a day full of news. The YDC held its special deliberation. The NSK board followed with its own, and as it turned out, Takanoiwa appeared from his genie’s lamp and testified to the crisis management committee.
Here is how things stood yesterday:
Harumafuji has handed in his resignation. He is no longer an employee of the NSK, but they do have to settle issues such as retirement money, retirement ceremony, etc.
Hakuho, and to a lesser degree Kakuryu, have been criticised for not stopping the violence in a timely fashion or preventing it from the start. Hakuho has also been criticised for his on and off-dohyo behavior in general. There was the matter of his matta protest, his yusho interview and “banzai”, and his style of sumo of late, frequently using harite and kachiage.
Takanohana has been waging a war against the NSK:
When he found out about the event, he did not report it to the NSK, only to the police.
He then refused to cooperate with the NSK’s crisis committee’s investigation, and allowed Takanoiwa to be interviewed only by the police. At first he said he will cooperate once the police investigation was over. Then once the prosecutor hands in a decision.
He also failed to produce a medical certificate for Takanoiwa’s absence from the fuyu Jungyo. The medical certificate for the basho was also questionable, as it seemed to have expired by the time the basho started.
Disciplinary measures as well as preventive measures were expected.
Takanoiwa makes an appearance
After the NSK crisis committee has already announced that they have “given up on interviewing Takanoiwa by the 20th” and that they will be handing in their report without his side being represented, and the NSK was hinting that they will be considering his punishment for the unsanctioned absence, Takanohana finally relented and released his deshi to speak to the committee on the night between the 19th and the 20th.
Here is Takanoiwa’s side of the story, as retold by the crisis committee representative in the press conference following today’s board meeting:
He only operated his smartphone after Hakuho’s lecture was over, and Hakuho and Harumafuji started talking about other things. He does not believe he did anything insulting or anything that justifies receiving an injury.
He felt demeaned by receiving a one-sided beating in front of other rikishi and the staff of his alma mater.
He only apologized to Harumafuji the next day because those same staff members advised him to do so. He himself did not feel it was merited.
Nevertheless, he says that he had no wish to see Harumafuji retire.
When asked why he lied to Takanohana at first and told him that he received his injury by falling down the stairs, he said that he didn’t want to cause an uproar, and that it was unmanly to tattle.
Further, Kagamiyama oyakata commented on Takanoiwa’s current state. Apparently, he is currently hospitalized, suffering from after-effects of the attack.
The YDC convenes, makes recommendations and deflects criticism
The YDC convened and discussed Yokozuna past and present:
Although Harumafuji already retired, they discussed the case as a precedent and decided that any such case in the future would merit an intai recommendation.
They recommended a severe reprimand to Hakuho and Kakuryu, for making light of their responsibility as Yokozuna to serve as examples, and to prevent any form of violence.
They also expressed a unanimous opinion that Takanohana’s behavior is unacceptable for an executive in any organization.
They also received many complaints about Hakuho’s “violent” style of fight these days, such as kachiage using a heavily bandaged elbow, or strong harite “for more than 10 bouts out of 15”. Adding that it was “not Yokozuna sumo, ugly, something we do not want to watch”.
When asked about their responsibility for the promotion of two Yokozuna who have retired due to scandal the head of the YDC responded that they have neither the ability nor the authority to conduct their own research into the candidates’ characters and have to ask the NSK members about that. Also, that they act on the request of the NSK.
The board convenes
Following the YDC’s meeting and recommendation, the board of the NSK also convened and made some decisions.
For not having prevented the violence, being the most eminent NSK member present, Hakuho will be deducted his entire salary for the coming January, and half of his salary for February. This is estimated at ¥4,230,000.
Also for not having prevented the violence, Kakuryu will be deducted his entire salary for the coming January. This is estimated at ¥2,820,000.
There is a retirement sum awarded to retiring Oyakata, Yokozuna and Ozeki. Harumafuji will have some amount deducted from this retirement money, though the exact deduction has not been decided yet.
The head of the board, Hakkaku, decided to give up his own salary for the rest of his current stint. This means three months, until the next board elections. The sum is estimated at ¥1,448,000.
Isegahama oyakata has taken responsibility for the actions of his deshi, and handed in his own resignation from the board. He will therefore be demoted to yakuin-taigu-iin (executive member) instead of riji (director). (Note that he can be re-elected). Hakkaku added that Isegahama oyakata wished to resign already when Harumafuji resigned, but that he, as head of the board, asked him to postpone it until the investigation was over.
The board accepted the recommendation of the YDC to set a recommendation of retirement as the standard for any case of violence by rikishi at the top of the banzuke. They used the term “joi”, so this doesn’t apply only to Yokozuna.
The missing piece is Takanohana. The discussion of his part has been postponed to another meeting to be held on the 28th, together with the meeting of the board of trustees. “We will make a decision based on the explanation we will receive from Takanohana”, said Hakkaku.
Kagamiyama oyakata said that in the board meeting, the board affirmed that they consider Takanoiwa as a victim of violence who should be protected by the NSK as a whole. He added that being kyujo from Kyushu puts Takanoiwa in Juryo on the next banzuke. However, should he need to continue his kyujo into Hatsu as well, considering the circumstances, allowances will be made as to his banzuke position.
Specifically, provided that he supplies the appropriate medical certificate this time, the NSK will not allow his banzuke position for Haru to drop below Juryo.
All of the above are disciplinary measures. How is such an occurrence to be prevented in the future? Here are some of the suggestions brought up by the crisis committee as well as the board meeting:
Declare a “Day of violence prevention”, to make sure that this scandal is not soon forgotten as the Tokitsukaze scandal has been.
Create a code of conduct that will be taught and referred to in all pertinent cases.
The NSK board will form a violence prevention committee that will include independent experts, to hand in recommendation (one source says) by the 28th as well.
The story of October 25th, retold
In a comment to my previous post about the interim report, I said that I expect the story of what happened on the fateful day in Tottori to change again only once – on December 20th, when the final report is handed.
Truth be told, it did not change very drastically, but there are some interesting details surfacing. I’ll put parts that were not in the previous post in bold.
Dinner party. Present: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Takanoiwa, Ishiura, Ishiura’s father and other members of the Tottori Johoku high school, 13 people in total.
During the dinner party, which took about 3 hours, Hakuho took issue with something a friend of his told him that Takanoiwa said in September. Takanoiwa denied. Harumafuji defended him and Hakuho let the matter go. This whole exchange was in Mongolian, and the Japanese present did not know its contents.
The after party included most of those participating in the dinner party, at a lounge recommended by the high school staff. Beer was served in glasses, not in bottles. Hakuho lectured to Takanoiwa and Terunofuji about their daily conduct and that they should be thankful to their high school teachers. He also reproached Kakuryu for letting him do all the lecturing.
Takanoiwa, thinking that Hakuho has finished his lecture, started to play with his phone. Harumafuji saw that, got annoyed, and asked “Why are you playing with your phone when the dai-yokozuna is talking to you?”. This was apparently also in Mongolian. Takanoiwa first denied he was playing with it, then said “I got a LINE message”. Harumafuji asked “Is that important? Who is it from?”. Eventually Takanoiwa said “It’s from my girlfriend”.
Harumafuji hit him once, on the face.
Takanoiwa said “sorry”, but Harumafuji thought he was giving him a defiant stare. So he hit him on the head and face several times with his bare hands, asking “Why are you behaving like that? I was protecting you earlier! Are you trying to be smart with Yokozuna?“.
He picked up a bottle of Champagne and made as if he would beat Takanoiwa with it, but it slipped and fell without harming anybody.
Hakuho, watching Harumafuji, said aloud “Don’t use any objects”. As soon as Harumafuji started using the remote control, he stepped in to stop the beating and took Harumafuji outside the room.
Apparently it was several minutes from the beginning of the beating and its end, and over 10 but less than 20 slaps/punches delivered.
Harumafuji then returned to the room and demanded that Takanoiwa apologize, hitting him once or twice again with his bare hands. Takanoiwa said “I deeply apologize, I’ll be careful from now on”, so Harumafuji stopped.
Harumafuji also reprimanded kakuryu: “You are not guiding them properly”. Then he addressed Terunofuji: “You have no spirit when you do keiko. If you want to ask something, just talk to me!”. Terunofuji changed his sitting position to seiza and answered “We can’t say what we think. There is a wall between us”. Harumafuji retorted “You are the ones who created that wall!”, and proceeded to slap Terunofuji (lightly) once or twice. Terunofuji’s reply: “Thank you”.
Takanoiwa’s scalp was lacerated and bled. He also suffered an injury to his wrist.
When they left the lounge, Takanoiwa asked Ishiura “What did Harumafuji hit me with?”. Ishiura replied “I think with a beer bottle and remote control”. However, Ishiura did not see that with his own eyes.
Takanoiwa had his wound taken care of the next day in a local infirmary, and initially told Takanohana that he fell down the stairs being drunk.
Ohisashiburi! Here we go again with the daily (if possible) Jungyo updates. Sekitori (excepting 13 kyujo), tsukebito, the jinku team, the shokkiri team, and home boys from the various Jungyo locations – 250 people in total – gathered in Fukuoka and went down the road to Omura last night.
The events of the sumo world cannot be forgotten, and Kasugano oyakata, who has taken charge in place of Takanohana in this Jungyo, laid down strict rules of conduct, from maintaining the dress code to not allowing private outings. He also opened the day with an apology to the spectators.
But the fans who filled the venue to the brim (4000 attending) really couldn’t care less. Or rather, they cared, but mostly about getting Harumafuji goods before they are sold out. Harumafuji’s memorabilia was the most popular, as the following video (which also includes the bout between Kakuryu and Hakuho) shows.
Hakuho, as you can see, was diligently working the crowd in his usual fansa-god fashion.
I couldn’t get much details on the practices, who engaged whom etc., but I do have a couple more torikumi for you:
Kore yori san-yaku
Terunofuji vs. Yoshikaze
Mitakeumi vs. Goeido
So, as you can see, Takayasu does not participate in the torikumi at this stage, while Terunofuji tries to find new and interesting ways to wreck his knees.
Bonus: Yokozuna tsuna-shime. This is one of the events of the Jungyo (and other exhibitions) – a demonstration of how the Yokozuna’s rope is wrapped and tied around him. This time Hakuho demonstrates. Guest star: Enho, who is on this Jungyo, as in the previous one, as part of the “Hakuho team”.
Yes, it takes 7 rikishi to tie up one Yokozuna (though I have a hunch that Enho is not really essential there). Note the squat at the end. The rope is tested and tightened so that it doesn’t move when the Yokozuna performs the shiko parts of his ring-entrance ceremony.
The full ceremony, including the unfurling of the rope, from a different angle: