Takanofuji Intai Saga Update

As was reported in the lead-up to September’s Grand Sumo Tournament, Takanofuji is at the center of yet another bullying incident. As the scandal broke before the tournament, he was suspended and did not compete. Based on the findings from the resulting investigation, and as reported by Mainichi Shimbun, the Nippon Sumo Kyokai recommended retirement and Takanofuji’s stable master, Chiganoura-oyakata, has also requested Takanofuji retire.

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”).

This is Takanofuji’s second offense, thus the recommendation of retirement. Though he admitted the facts of the Aug. 31 incident, Takanofuji claims he did not hit the tsukebito hard. He held a press conference today, flanked by his attorney, where he stated that he does not intend to resign, asking for a lighter punishment and stronger regulation of the sport from the Japan Sports Agency, a Government Agency under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Asahi Shimbun is reporting that if he will not resign, the Kyokai will take disciplinary measures which may be a forced retirement.

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.

Natsu Day 7 – Ones To Watch

Day 7 is loaded down with action for our “Ones to Watch”; it’s the middle weekend, and some of our favorites will be 4-0 by Sunday. Day 6 saw Musashikuni finally get his first win of the Basho to improve to 1-2, and hopefully put himself on the road to kachi-koshi. Elsewhere in Makushita, Wakatakamoto picked up his first win as well against Ayanoumi, while Akua lost his first to drop to 2-1. In Sandanme, Roga won to improve to 2-1, as did Shoji. Amakaze won against Hikarifuji to improve to 3-0.

Day 7 matches

Wakamotoharu vs Tamaki – Wakamotoharu finds himself in the 1-2 bracket going into the middle weekend, needing 3 more wins out of 4 matches to make kachi-koshi and likely punch his ticket back to Juryo. The problem with that plan is that out of the 3 prior matches with Tamaki, Wakamotoharu has won only one.

Kotokamatani vs Takanofuji – This 3-0 bracket match will determine who goes into the yusho playoff ladder, and it features both Makushita 2 rikishi, both of which have yet to lose. Kotokamatani has really been impressive thus far, and looks to be a good candidate for promotion, which the winner of this bout likely clinches -lksumo.

Ichiyamamoto vs Kizakiumi – What a difference a win makes, as Ichiyamamoto has 2 wins and only needs 2 more out of 4 to get to kachi-koshi. His Juryo promotion is not as certain, due to him being ranked Makushita 3, but his first goal has to be that 4th win. Okinawan Kizakiumi has rocketed up the banzuke after joining Kise heya from Nihon University’s sumo program. Ichiyamamoto is going to have his hands full.

Wakatakamoto vs Takakento – It’s an Onami brothers day of sumo, with all 3 on the dohyo during the afternoon. Wakatakamoto won the previous match against Takakento, which took place a year ago.

Akua vs Kototebakari – Kototebakari has been on a rocket ride up the banzuke since he joined Sadogatake in 2017. He is fighting at his personal highest rank ever, and could present a lot of fight to Akua, who I am convinced is still not completely recovered from his September 2018 injuries that caused him to withdraw from the Aki Basho on day 12.

Roga vs Wagurayama – After taking the first loss of his professional sumo career, Roga is back to dominating every match. Perhaps some of the pressure was relieved, and he can focus more on each match as it comes? This 2-1 bracket match means that Roga is most likely not going to contest for the Sandanme yusho, which may have also relieved some worries.

Wakaichiro vs Harimanada – After a cold 0-2 start, Wakaichiro looked like a completely different rikishi for his 3rd match, confidently launching Amamidake across the tawara and into the zabuton. With any luck we will see that kind of sumo again on day 7 as Wakaichiro goes up against Onoe heya’s Harimanada. Harimanada has never been ranked higher than Jonidan, and in fact was banzuke gai for about a year.

Kitanowaka vs Ito – Mr Fabulous takes on Ito in this Jonokuchi 3-0 match, where we will watch a former high school Yokozuna battle Saitama native Ito, a graduate of the Tokyo University of Agriculture. Will this one be less lopsided than the prior 3?

Hattorizakura vs Garyu – Good news for Garyu! He finally gets to pick up his first win. Perpetual soft sumo pro Hattorizakura shows no sign of getting fierce any time soon. It’s ok, the fans adore him.

Natsu Day 2 – Ones To Watch

Wakaichiro On Deck!

The day 2 roster of our “Ones to Watch” is loaded to the brim with our lower division favorites, and we are banking that we can get a video stream up in time to enjoy it. From day 1, I can share that Kitanowaka completely outclassed Garyu for a commanding win of his first ever sumo match in the professional ranks.

Who is on day 2? Well, everyone!

Wakamotoharu vs Seiro – Wakamotoharu lost his day 1 match, but thanks to the banzuke imbalance created by Hakuho going kyujo, there is an upper Makushita rikishi tasked to fill in a Juryo slot each day. For day 2, we see Wakamotoharu return to Juryo and face off against Seiro. Might we see Hoshoryu at some point?

Ichiyamamoto vs Takanofuji – For the final match in Makushita (which will happen after the Juryo dohyo-iri), we get this high-voltage clash. Ichiyamamoto is taking his second run at the ceiling of Makushita against the former Takayoshitoshi, who was dropped from Juryo last basho due to poor performance.

Hoshoryu vs Tamaki – First match for Hoshoryu, who is attracting a lot of attention the closer he gets to the salaried ranks. His opponent today is no slouch – Tamaki bounced off the top of the Makushita wall as a Ms3 East rikishi in Kyushu, and is taking his second run at the top.

Midorifuji vs Nogami – Fighting at his highest ever rank, Midorifuji has his first match against veteran Aomori-ken rikishi, Nogami, who fights under his given name. Nogami has been splashing about at this rank for a while, and is probably near his theoretical peak. But this is the kind of Rikishi that Midorifuji will need to master to break into the top echelon.

Naya vs Sagatsukasa – As if day 2 were not yet stuffed full enough of sumo awesome, here we go. Naya is finally starting to catch up to his rival Hoshoryu, but he is entering the thick of Makushita’s under-ranks. Sagatsukasa is a former Maegashira on the downward slope of his career, but he will bring an arsenal of technique and experience to the dohyo to measure against Naya’s youth and vigor.

Musashikuni vs Higoarashi – Musashikuni is coming off a two basho make-koshi streak, and really needs to turn things around. His day 2 match against Higoarashi is their third meeting, with Higoarashi holding a 2-1 edge. Come on Mamu! You can get it done!

Roga vs Hokutotsubasa – I am sure Hokutotsubasa looked at the torikumi Sunday evening and said, “Oh crap”. While that is not normally the reaction that a former Makushita rikishi would give when finding out they were facing who was about to have their first Sandanme match, but this is Roga. He wants your lunch money… and your chanko. We get to see how Roga handles himself against a well skilled and tough opponent.

Must… find.. way… to connect… to… Japan….

Terunofuji vs Daishomune – The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan laughs at me, trying to find a way to watch sumo from the land of the big hats and broad cattle. Sure, the wolf’s match (above) needs even more goodness. Let’s throw in the Kaiju as well. Everyone is curious if Daishomune will face a Terunofuji that looks just as terrible as he did in Osaka, or if Terunofuji is getting his health under control. We all want him in fine shape and fighting well.

Shoji vs Asanojo – Another fast rising rikishi, Shoji, will face off against Asanojo, a 32 year old veteran who has never ranked higher than Sandanme. If Shoji has his health back in line, this should be an easy match. Let’s hope he’s finally back to fighting form.

Wakaichiro vs Miyakogawa – I make no bones that I am a die-hard Wakaichiro booster. Today he’s facing a rematch with Miyakogawa, who he holds a career 2-1 advantage against. We hope America’s finest rikishi can apply some of that newly developed muscle against his rival and start Natsu out with a white star.

Hattorizakura vs Kitajima – Sadly, unless we can get a stream running, we will miss sumo’s perpetual loser – Hattorizakura. Free win day for Kitajima.