Early this week, a video was posted to Abi’s Instagram feed showing Wakamotoharu bound by his wrists and legs, and gagged. The video was less than a minute long and showed Wakamotoharu escaping from the bonds to the sounds of off-camera laughter. Your humble editor saw the video half-asleep, thought, “Kids these days”, rolled over and went back to bed.
Followers of the Tachiai Twitter account and Herouth’s account likely saw a brief exchange about how the drama was playing out on Social Media. Some were even calling for intai as this would be a bullying scandal. I would presume bullying would require a victim…in which case it seems Wakamotoharu was a willing Houdini-like participant.
There has now been reprimands and apologies, so it went past embarrassing prank-dom and into micro-scandal. Let’s hope there are no more, but, alas, the calendar has been changed to reflect the date of the latest “scandal.”
Takuro was accused and admitted to striking two subordinates. He struck the first for eating breakfast in the section of seating reserved for patrons, and then snapped at the other for not reprimanding the first. Herouth has a full write-up here.
The incident that brought all of this to a head occurred on August 31. Takanofuji was angered by his Jonidan-ranked attendant’s poor attitude, and according to the Mainichi report, he didn’t like that the junior wrestler bathed first. As a result, Takanofuji punched the victim in the forehead creating a lump on his head and resulting in pain that lasted a couple of days.
The victim ran away from the stable with two fellow wrestlers. Why two others? The three wrestlers were given nicknames of “Niwatori,” “Hiyoko,” and “Jidori” by Takanofuji and the allegations are that they were habitually berated. They were told that rather than saying “Hai,” they should cluck like chickens (say, “ko-ke”).
The reporting on that last point is rather vague so I will try to learn what they mean. It sounded like there is a range of punishment…but to me I don’t know how much range of disciplinary “measures” there can be between “voluntary retirement” and “forced retirement”. Are fines and criminal proceedings a possible outcome? Can Chiganoura evict his unruly deshi or can he only apply pressure to encourage him to leave? I do not know but hope to find answers. The physical bullying seems to be the tip of the iceberg and this story will be around for a while, unfortunately.
Given the seriousness of the allegations, it’s understandable that there are very strong opinions. As many of my Twitter followers are aware of my little Twitter rant, I do want to note my firm belief in due process and uncovering the facts. I had a lot of questions before I reported this today; many of those have been answered as I read more but I still do have many other questions.I trust their process to deliver a just punishment in the handling of the case.
Frankly, I did not want to report this story at all, as it’s a demonstration of stupidity. But now that it has gone global and is busy giving sumo yet another black eye, it’s unavoidable.
During the spring Jungyo tour’s stop in Maizuru, the mayor of the town was on the dohyo speaking and collapsed. Many people rushed to the dohyo to help, including medical professionals that were present to enjoy a day of sumo. They applied CPR and first aid techniques to sustain the mayor until he could be transported to the hospital. The Mayor is going to be ok, it seems. The quick work and skillful application of medicine saved the day. That’s the good part of the story. Now the stupid.
Several of the highly trained medical professionals were women. Did they care that the dohyo is supposed to be a sacred place were women were not allowed? Hell no! These were dedicated healers. A fellow human was in peril, and they were going to go save him. So far, only slightly stupid. Oh, but then one of the younger gyoji took to the PA system and directed the women to leave the dohyo. Not once, but several times. Of course, it was captured on video, of course it was posted to social media.
Sumo loves to be a sport of unchanging and unyielding tradition. As a westerner my perspective is not the Japanese perspective. As I mention at least once per basho, most of us in the west are outsiders to this land, this culture and this sport. But at some point, common sense had to have kicked in. Look here, Sumo Association of Japan, if you want to make sure no women doctors or nurses try to rescue the hurt and injured from your sacred space, you are going to need a set of medical folks who are on call.
Chairman Hakkaku rightfully apologized later, stating “It was an inappropriate response in a life-threatening situation,”. Damn straight Hakkaku. Furthermore, it was an unforced error and loss of face for a great sport that has been greatly degraded over the past year. For the chairman to try and pass this off on the inexperience of the young gyoji is inexcusable.
The only clear winners here are the mayor of Maizuru, who lived to see another sunrise, and Takanohana, who through a majestic stroke of luck is no longer the biggest asshole in sumo for a few days.
Again, I am an outsider, but I am going to guess that my favorite sport is going to suffer a well-deserved set back in the people’s hearts from this pointless insult.
Comments for this post are now closed. Some great and thoughtful discussion from our highly-valued readers, but we were swerving into things like trans-gender issues that have nothing to do with sumo. Thank you for understanding.