Isegahama Bullying Incident Leads Oyakata to Resign from Board

It’s Two-Fer-One Tuesday, I mean Monday, here at Tachiai! The holidays have offered up a real backlog of scandals! We’re practically giving them away!

From Jalopnik

Andy, you’d make a terrible pitch man. Just say you don’t have a picture of Isegahama and get on with the news, buddy.

While the Ichinojo thing has actually been stewing for a few months and has found some resolution (for now), another revelation has taken us by surprise today. There’s been a bullying situation at Isegahama-beya involving three wrestlers from the lower-ranks.

We do not know the identities of the wrestlers officially, yet, but two wrestlers were apparently bullying a third. The bullying included the victim being physically punched and stomped, as well as burned with chanko. One of the bullies has been forced to retire while the other is suspended for two tournaments. Isegahama has resigned from his post on the Board of Directors.

This is certainly a sad situation which has cost at least one wrestler his career. Isegahama-beya has had several recent new recruits and a few banzuke-gai, so it’s certainly not clear at this point what impact it will have on the stable. Sadly, there will be more to come on this story.

Ichinojo Suspended for Hatsu 2023

The Kyokai held a board meeting on Monday to address a conflict between Ichinojo and his stable. The conflict involved allegations of Ichinojo’s excessive drinking on numerous occasions which had escalated to the point where he had assaulted Minato-oyakata’s wife and not only moved out of the stable but skipped keiko, wouldn’t eat with the stable, etc. Minato-oyakata attempted to correct Ichinojo’s behavior but the situation has become increasingly strained leading up to Ichinojo’s championship win in July, and it has continued afterwards. Over the course of the investigation, the board learned that Ichinojo had gone out in contravention of covid protocols, thus the suspension. His suspension is not as severe as Asanoyama’s and Abi’s because he had gone to restaurants instead of “cabaret” clubs, or hostess clubs and he also did not lie to the board.

Ichinojo is ranked Maegashira 7 East for the upcoming tournament but it’s not clear whether his suspension will drop him out of the top division. He will be just at the cusp of demotion so it’s conceivable that the collective performance of the four Sekiwake and four Komusubi might be the deciding factor of whether he hangs onto the bottom rung or lands at the top of Juryo. If there is a 6-man sanyaku in March, there could be 18 rungs on the Hiramaku ladder. Hidenoumi’s suspension from Maegashira 8 resulted in a fall to Juryo 2 with 17 Maegashira ranks.

COVID news: 8 new cases appear, Tokitsukaze punishment

Two news items from earlier today are related to the pandemic.

Eight new cases in heya

A few days ago, we have reported that 6 rikishi tested positive at an undisclosed heya. At the time, all the others were tested as well but were negative. However, several of those previously negative have developed symptoms such as a high fever. As a result, a new test has been conducted and 8 additional rikishi were found positive, bringing the number of infections in that heya to 14 in total.

None of those infected is a sekitori, and therefore the names and the heya are undisclosed.

Tokitsukaze oyakata’s punishment decided

We have previously posted that Tokitsukaze oyakata has been caught on camera breaking COVID regulation repeatedly during Hatsu basho, and handed in his resignation. The NSK did not accept it immediately, and waited for the Compliance Committee to investigate the matter. That committee has completed its investigation and handed in a report a few days ago, recommending that the oyakata retire. In an extraordinary meeting of the board today, they have decided to issue an official “recommendation to retire”, and additionally, reduced Tokitsukaze’s severance pay by 30%.

The Tokitsukaze name, together with the heya, will transfer to Magaki oyakata, the former Tosayutaka, freeing the Magaki kabu. This was not an arbitrary selection, but rather the consensus at which the ichimon arrived as soon as Tokitsukaze made up his mind to retire.

Tokitsukaze oyakata hands in resignation over flagrant COVID regulation violation

Shortly after Hatsu basho has been over, a Japanese tabloid published preliminary information, revealing that Tokitsukaze oyakata (former Tokitsuumi, 47) has been going out of the heya during the basho, to various destinations, including 5 consecutive days at a Mahjong parlor, and various excursions to less reputable establishments.

While in normal times such conduct may have raised at most some outraged voices from the more conservative section of society, doing so in the middle of a pandemic, against explicit guidelines, was not likely to pass quietly. Moreover, this is his second offense, after he went golfing in Miyagi prefecture before Aki basho – a violation which cost him a demotion by two ranks.

The crisis management committee has taken up the story, and the compliance committee has started an investigation following a hearing. Following the investigation, the procedure is to hand the recommendations to the board, which would hold a meeting and decide on a proper punishment. This punishment is expected to be severe, under the circumstances.

Yesterday, when interviewed by Nikkan Sports, the oyakata was still attempting to provide alternative explanations about his actions (saying, for example, that he did visit the Mahjong parlor, but not to play Mahjong but to give them tickets to the basho). However, at around the same time, the aforesaid tabloid started releasing more information, including photos. This may have been what drove the oyakata to hand in his resignation on January 27, stating his resolve to take responsibility.

Current expectation is that the NSK will hold on to the resignation papers until after it completes the investigation and punishment procedure. Of course, keeping precedents like Abi and the former Shikimori Inosuke in mind, it’s not a certainty that the resignation will be accepted immediately or at all.