Crime and Punishment – Board Meeting Summary

Yesterday, the NSK board convened. After a couple of meetings in which the newly elected board was set up and various toshiyori were assigned duties, it was finally time to deliberate the penalties of various trouble makers.

Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana

Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana

As you may recall, in the middle of the basho, shin-juryo Takayoshitoshi decided to beat up his tsukebito in front of many witnesses, and was pulled out of the basho as a result. His punishment for the deed is a suspension for one basho. He will not do the spring jungyo and will forfeit the Natsu basho. He is allowed to practice at his heya.

This of course implies a sharp drop in rank. Maybe even as far as sandanme.

The stablemaster of every trouble rikishi also has to bear punishment for his part in raising and guiding his deshi improperly. However, in Takanohana’s case, there was more – he has continued his games with the NSK and played hooky from the arena. He wasn’t around when the twin did the deed, and he should have.

There was a faction in the NSK – allegedly the Nishonoseki ichimon – which called for him to be suspended from all activities this time. This would have prevented him from actually guiding his deshi, and may have required fostering them temporarily to other heya in his ichimon. However, the Takanohana ichimon begged for a lighter sentence, and eventually the board decided on yet another demotion. He now has the lowest possible rank for a member of the NSK: toshiyori.

The Minezaki scandal

We haven’t mentioned this story in a post so I need to fill you in. A short time before the Takayoshitoshi story broke, it was announced that a rikishi from Minezaki beya has beaten up a junior on four separate occasions, some of them after the Harumafuji scandal. The junior rikishi retired as a result, but the story only came to the knowledge of the stablemaster from a letter sent by the former rikishi’s father. He promptly reported it to the NSK and they announced it publically after verifying it with the parties involved.

The names of the parties have not been revealed by the Japanese press, but only one rikishi retired from that heya recently: Kaigo. As for the assailant, a single rikishi from Minezaki beya pulled out of the tournament following the publication: Arawashi’s tsukebito, Hikarugenji. Connect the dots.

And his punishment was decided yesterday as well. He, too, will be suspended from one basho. Again, a drop in rank is implied. Hikarugenji was sandanme 25 in the Haru basho.

Minezaki oyakata was docked 10% of his salary for the next two months.

The Osunaarashi wrap-up

At the time of the announcement of the Osunaarashi scandal, his stablemaster served as a trustee. This means that he was not considered a member of the NSK and could not be punished (though through some regulation gymnastics, he could still keep his heya…)

However, in yesterday’s meeting he was docked 10% of his salary by his own request. At the same opportunity, he also declared that he will not be holding a danpatsu-shiki (ceremonial cutting of top-knot) for Osunaarashi. Indeed, the former rikishi is already shorn.

Commentary

The punishments seem extremely light. Yet another demotion for Takanohana, after he clearly didn’t repent following the previous one and indeed said he does not accept nor understand it? It remains to be seen if the former dai-yokozuna will quit his attention-seeking behavior and start on a more constructive path.

As for the two violent rikishi, what message does that send to parents who send their kids to professional sumo? “Nothing has changed. Your kid may well be beaten up if a senior doesn’t like the way he makes the chanko. There is no incentive for the seniors to keep their hands in their obi.” After Hakkaku declared that stopping violence in sumo is the top item on his agenda, I would have expected a more severe punishment.

An old Jewish saying goes: “He who is kind to the cruel ends up being cruel to the kind”.

Osunaarashi guilty of driving without a license, may be facing dismissal

The story broke out a few days after the beginning of the Hatsu basho. NHK found out that Osunaarashi has rear-ended a car while visiting the Nagano prefecture with his wife, on January 3rd. There were no bodily injuries, and Osunaarashi apparently compensated the other car’s owner.

osunaarashi

However, the Egyptian wrestler failed to inform either the NSK or his stablemaster of this incident. Admitting to this failure to report, he was put on punitive kyujo for the rest of the basho.

The problems were only beginning for the young former Maegashira. The first problem was that driving is strictly forbidden to all active rikishi. This is not an obscure sub-item in some rule book nobody pays attention to. All rikishi know this and this is the reason why you see many rikishi in public transport or riding bicycles (motor bikes are also forbidden).

There are precedents for rikishi breaking this regulation. Famously, Kyokutenho (currently Tomozuna oyakata) has rear-ended a car waiting at a traffic light back in 2007 and caused its driver a minor injury. Besides his legal proceedings, he was punished by the NSK with a suspension for one basho and 30% were docked from his salary for three months.

If Osunaarashi had reported the incident and admitted to driving that car, he would have probably fared no worse, especially given that there were no injuries. However, he made a serious error of judgement, and gave various conflicting statements to both the police and the NSK. He claimed that he had an international driving license. It was found that the license was not valid. An International driving license is valid in Japan for only one year from entering the country. After that, you have to acquire a Japanese driving license. So he was driving without a license.

The exact order of the statements is not entirely clear, but apparently at this point his wife claimed that she was driving the car. However, evidence including footage from a surveillance camera showed Osunaarashi in the driver’s seat. he then admitted to the police that he was driving the car.

It was at this point that the story was revealed to the NSK. However, in his hearing by the NSK crisis committee, though he admitted to not reporting the incident, he and his lawyer continued to claim that his wife was the one driving the car. His explanation was that his wife was pregnant, and that because she only had an Egyptian license, not an International one, he had switched seats with her to protect her, because he believed his International license was good.

This put him in a position in which he was lying either to the police or to the NSK. The NSK called him in for questioning several times more, and the details of the story kept changing, according to Kagamiyama oyakata.

Since then, the Nagano police found out that he has been driving not just on the occasion that ended in the accident, but also twice before. Once in Nakano city on January 1st, and then twice in the town of Yamanouchi. Of course, they were only investigating within their own jurisdiction. The police then filed charges with the Nagano prosecution.

Today, the Nagano prosecutor decided on a summary indictment for three counts of driving without a valid license. Within the same day, he was fined ¥500,000. (It is perhaps noteworthy that this is the same sum Harumafuji was fined for injuring Takanoiwa. This suggests that cooperation with police makes a world of difference). He also paid the fine within the day.

However, this still leaves him to face the NSK, and this is where it is probably going to get a lot more serious for the popular Egyptian. The NSK board is going to hold a regular meeting on March 9th, and the subject of Osunaarashi’s punishment is on the agenda. They intend to listen to him and his lawyer again before making their judgement. However, the prospects do not look good. In addition to breaking the NSK regulation, he broke the law, and he was dishonest. The press expects a severe punishment, not ruling out a dismissal.

Dismissal is the heaviest weapon the NSK has. Below it there is a “recommendation to retire”. The recommendation becomes mandatory if the rikishi doesn’t hand in his resignation. There is a subtle difference between the two punishments, but both of them mean that Osunaarashi will not be mounting the dohyo again. Of course, there is still a possibility that they will decide on a long suspension and additional fine. Osunaarashi is already heading for Makushita following his forced kyujo, so there is no possibility to dock his salary, as he won’t have one.

Also expect his stablemaster to be punished. In the case of Kyokutenho, his stablemaster’s salary was also docked. Otake oyakata has already apologized several times for this unfortunate incident. Although Osunaarashi did not report to him, the NSK usually takes stablemasters to task for the scandals caused by their deshi, viewing it as lack of proper guidance.

Tachiai will keep you updated on the final decision.

Jungyo Newsreel – December 11th

 

🌐 Location: Kitakyushu, Fukuoka

I hope you will forgive this newsreel for having less content than usual. Today the Tottori police finally handed Harumafuji’s case to the prosecution, and after a few days of having some actual Jungyo news, the press and the media once again focused on the scandal rather than on Sumo.

hakuho-communicating-with-god
O Lord, just let this end and let me do what I do best – Sumo

So, everything today has been picked from Twitter.

First, our sources inform us that there was a clay malfunction today! The dohyo in the Jungyo is made, it turns out, from beer crates, fixed in place, and covered with planks and clay. Somehow something moved, and the clay broke, and morning keiko had to be suspended for quite a while – with fans watching – to do the repairs:

dohyo-repairs

Don’t worry, the rikishi got plenty of workouts. Take this aerobics lesson:

Somebody there is visibly skipping leg day.

Also, weight lifting:

homare-mutsukaze
Homarefuji and Mutsukaze

Apparently, Homarefuji wants to join the Isegahama elite no-knees club, currently including Aminishiki, Terunofuji and Terutsuyoshi. So he opted for lifting Mutsukaze, who weighs above 140kg.

Mutsukaze is a member of the Jinku team, by the way. That, and those face hugging sideburns, make him much more worthy of the title “Sumo Elvis” than Chiyotairyu has ever been!

Once keiko resumed, our sources caught a glimpse of Onosho and Takakeisho in a moshi-age (winner invites next opponent) bout:

In the shitaku-beya, rikishi were taking naps. Take a look at these two:

ryuden-nishikigi-amakaze
Ryuden ❤️ Nishikigi

This photo was actually taken by Amakaze. Apparently, these two lovebirds stole his zabuton, his pillow and his favorite elephant  blanket, which Ryuden held hostage:

Sorry for the neck ache. That’s what happens when you let a rikishi use a camera (yeah, that’s actually Amakaze filming, and desperately shouting at Ryuden “Don’t spill it!”, “Wait, don’t, don’t!”).

To end the entertainment part of this slightly wacky newsreel, here is what Satonofuji looks like when he is not holding a bow:
satonofuji-without-bow

Now here are a few bouts.

Enho vs. Terao, who still tries tsuppari…

Takagenji vs. Osunaarashi:

Edit: The Musubi-no-ichiban finally materialized!

Hakuho 5 – Kakuryu 3. The tie is finally broken.

Tomorrow the Jungyo is on hiatus, and then everybody is going to Okinawa!

Day 3 – Katasukashi Galore

Elephant Crosses Dohyo
What Yokozuna Incident?

So… let’s start with a couple of Juryo bouts. First, if there are any Ishiura fans out there, take a look:

Finally, Ishiura gets a win, against the hapless Homarefuji. He plants his head and keeps his feet in order, and manages to take the Isegahama man out. Of course, this black star is probably the last worry on Isegahama Oyakata’s mind this day. But they keep piling on.

Now take a look at Yutakayama vs. Tokushoryu:

A couple of days ago I said that there’s a level of difference between Yutakayama and Asanoyama. But as it turns out, the larger man is already in possession of three wins, while Asanoyama is not doing as well.

Up into Makuuchi we go, and Daiamami gets his first win today! Admittedly, Kyokushuho is just a Juryo rival, but any white star is a gold star at this point for the newcomer. It starts with a matta, but in the second round, Daiamami just cannons into Kyokushuho and gaburi’s him out. The fans enjoy his interview face:

Kotoyuki also grabbed his first win today, in a bit of a confused battle. Myogiryu throws Kotoyuki down, but falls a split second before the huge meatball. Air resistance?

Up we go to take a look at everybody’s favorite uncle. Whatever is happening around him in his heya, and the fact that he is going to do his dohyo-iri in his own kesho-mawashi from now on, do not seem to affect him. Nishikigi tried to do the smart thing – to press the kneeless man against the tawara. But Aminishiki just tiptoed aside like a ballerina, and handed Nishikigi the first Katasukashi of the day.

Aminishiki’s comment on the Isegahama website: “The heya has met with a serious situation, but the remaining rikishi must do their best. As the eldest I will strive to lead everybody forward”.

Takekaze seems to be headed to Juryo (if he doesn’t decide to retire). Okinoumi exchanges some thrusts with him until he gets a nice hold of his neck and ends it with a hatakikomi (if anybody can explain to me why this is not a tokkurinage… sigh).

The Asanoyama vs. Kagayaki bout was different than I expected. I’m used to seeing Kagayaki flailing wildly with his arms and his… additional appendages… This time he basically got his hands on Asanoyama’s body and managed to beat the Yotsu man at his own game.

Daiesho gets a first win today as well, when, after some attempts to slap and defend on Ikioi‘s side, he finally sidesteps and lets the big man hit the clay.

Endo decides to use thrusts vs. Shodai, and doesn’t make any use of his tachiai advantage. Shodai withstands the tsuppari attack, and manages to get a grip on Endo’s upper body. That’s the end for the recovering man in the golden mawashi, as Shodai has more than enough power to get him out even without a mawashi grip.

Not much can be said about the battle of the Marus. Again, Chiyomaru seems to have come to the dohyo without his usual genki. Daishomaru easily pushes him out.

Arawashi takes Tochinoshin to the bales and executes a beautiful sukui-nage. As Tochinoshin tries to resist the fall, Arawashi uses his right leg against Tochinoshin’s left and “helps” him complete the roll. Very nice!

Takarafuji earns his first win today vs. Chiyoshoma. It was Chiyoshoma’s initial initiative, but Takarafuji rallied, didn’t let Chiyoshoma get any grip on him for a throw (come on, Chiyoshoma, don’t try neck grips with Takarafuji, those are futile!) – and then throws the thrower in a nice uwatenage.

The second Katasukashi of the day came from Ichinojo. But this one was rather weird. Hokutofuji came at him low at the tachiai, and Ichinojo grabbed him under his arms, and then just let him drop. Not sure if slippiotoshi or sloppy tachiai on Hokutofuji’s part.

Chiyonokuni‘s match with Shohozan was less of a slapfest than I thought it would be, and ended pretty quickly with the Kokonoe man slapping his opponent down. All-important first win for Chiyonokuni.

Kotoshogiku nearly succeeds in his game plan today, and starts pumping his hips. However, Mitakeumi makes sure to be loose on one side, and concentrates his power on his grip on the pump-man’s arm for a well-executed sukuinage. Still bothered by his toe, but as long as he can execute throws like that, I’m sure the sekiwake is happy. Kotoshogiku is not getting the comeback he was hoping for, now 0-3.

Terunofuji‘s ghost continues to float over the dohyo without ever being able to latch its feet to it. Yet another loss for the former kaiju, this time against Yoshikaze who picks up his first win.

I wonder when Onosho is going to switch back to his fiery red mawashi. Rikishi are usually quick to blame their mawashi for their troubles, and the tadpole clearly suffers some bad lack, with his second slippiotoshi in a row against Takayasu. Unlike yesterday, when the Yokozuna really could take no credit for anything in the bout, Takayasu can be commended for managing to keep his footing first against a sidestep and then when pushed to the tawara. Excellent footwork from someone who tore a major leg muscle less than two months ago.

Goeido diversifies. In the two previous matches he hugged his opponent and swept him all the way to the other edge. Today he heard it was Katasukashi day, so he showed Tochiozan that he has waza as well as brute force.

If anybody hoped for another pedagogic bout between Hakuho and Takakeisho, this was not to be. Takakeisho exhibited welcome fearlessness in this bout, and even attempted to throw the dai-yokozuna. And if he had managed to do that I would really be worried that we’re seeing the decline of the One True King. But of course, Hakuho maintained his footing, got his other arm on Takakeisho and quickly swept him off the dohyo.

Finally, in the musubi of the day, Kisenosato manages to overwhelm Chiyotairyu in a way that he can feel happier about than yesterday’s silly bout vs. Onosho. He almost dances back to his position on the east to take his prize money.


Some more lower-ranks action:

Osunaarashi – Takagenji:

For followers of Shunba:

 

Hatsu Day 3 Preview

mitakeumi-kensho

Can Mitakeumi’s Kensho Loot Pile Grow?

Day two is in the record books and it’s clear that some of the rikishi are still struggling to clear the cobwebs and settling into their sumo.

  • Osunaarashi – He came in locked down and ready to win. After his brutal kyujo demotion in 2016, all the man has wanted was back in the top division. Clearly he is still hurt and in quite a bit of pain, but he is laying the doom on the Chiyo crowd.
  • Kaisei – After so many poor tournaments, it’s really good to see Kaisei actually winning again. Maybe he has dropped own the banzuke far enough that he is competitive. I think he may have gotten too much mass to effectively work.
  • Kisenosato – Kise is bored, let’s be honest. No one has put up much of a contest to the Great Pumpkin so far. It sometimes irks me that everyone wants to take a great Ozeki and cast him as a Yokozuna. Because his does Ozeki so very very well.
  • Mitakeumi – The kid is on fire right now. We may see a second week collapse, like we did for Okinoumi, but right now he is moving well. The fact that he shut down Harumafuji’s death spin impressed me quite a bit.
  • Hakuho – I would guess he is done with his recovery and back to what is the new Hakuho normal. Still amazing but not quite what he was. Everyone ages, and loses some physical strength in the process. He is still a joy to watch.

Notable Matches

Osunaarashi vs Chiyotairyu – Just how many Chiyos can one man take? Let’s see if it’s at least three! This would be Osunaarashi’s first win against this Chiyo, should be prevail.

Nishikigi vs Sokokurai – Both of these guys has a strong first two days, and both are looking good this basho. Looks like the first match between these two.

Kaisei vs Takanoiwa – Can the Brazilian make it 3 in a row, or will the resurgent Takanoiwa keep his own record clean? Kaisei has a distinct 3-1 advantage in wins between them.

Ishiura vs Chiyonokuni – Two small and strong rikishi go head to head. Ishiura is suffering the NHK curse – he went on NHK World for a highlight piece, and now he is failing hard. Chiyonokuni has bulked up quite a bit in the last 6 months, and is still re-working his sumo to handle the extra mass. Ishiura has lot both of their previous bouts.

Tamawashi vs Shodai – in a Sekiwake head to head, we see them both come in 1-1, each trying to survive sumo’s toughest rank. In their only prior match, Shodai lost.

Shohozan vs Harumafuji – Shohozan brought a masterful attack against Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 2, losing because he mis-timed the throw. Given Harmuafuji’s ankle problems, it maybe time for another Kinboshi. It’s a long shot, as Harumafuji leads their series 12-2

Hakuho vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has a good start, with one Yokozuna and one Ozeki scalp already. Now he faces the most difficult foe in sumo. Clearly Hokuho has the advantage here, but I am keen to see if Mitakeumi can gamberize. Hakuho has won both their prior meetings