The Yomiuri ShimbunA yokozuna who should be a role model for other sumo wrestlers caused a situation that had to be investigated by the police. It can be said that retirement was the only way to take responsibility for this.
Yokozuna Harumafuji has retired. His career as a sumo wrestler has been cut short over a scandal in which he attacked and injured makuuchi division wrestler Takanoiwa during a drinking party attended by wrestlers from Mongolia. “I did what a yokozuna should not have done,” Harumafuji said at the press conference at which he announced his retirement.
Though being a relative lightweight, Harumafuji gained popularity for defeating larger wrestlers through techniques that harnessed his speed and low, sharp movements at the initial charge. This scandal is a betrayal of the fans that supported him.
The Yokozuna Deliberation Council’s internal rules state that the most important condition when considering whether to recommend a wrestler for promotion to sumo’s highest rank is whether they possess “extraordinary dignity and abilities.” A yokozuna is required to have dignity above all else.
Inflicting violence is unacceptable, whatever the reason. It is obvious Harumafuji’s actions displayed a remarkable absence of dignity.
The council showed, as its consensus, the view that a “harsh punishment” was needed. This essentially sealed Harumafuji’s fate, and he was driven to retire. Because Harumafuji has not acquired Japanese citizenship, he cannot remain in the Japan Sumo Association by becoming a stablemaster. Harumafuji has paid the ultimate price for his act of stupidity.
After the recent Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, JSA Chairman Hakkaku gave an extraordinary lecture on the topic of “preventing the recurrence of violence” to wrestlers in the makuuchi and juryo divisions. All rikishi should discipline themselves.
Hakuho also problematic
Recent problematic comments and behavior in public by yokozuna Hakuho, who must be a leader for other wrestlers, also were alarming.
In an interview after winning the Kyushu tournament, Hakuho spoke of his wish to have Harumafuji and Takanoiwa “return to the dohyo again.” Hakuho should not have casually spoken of the wrestlers involved in this incident returning to the ring at a time when criminal punishment and other matters of the case were still undecided.
Hakuho’s urging of spectators to shout “banzai” three times was also incomprehensible. It was inappropriate for Hakuho, who was at the drinking session where the assault occurred, to lead these cheers. Does he not understand the severe situation the JSA was placed in?
During his bout with Yoshikaze at the Kyushu tournament, Hakuho eased up and indicated he was not ready, even though both wrestlers had already charged at each other at the face-off. Even after being forced out, Hakuho showed signs of protest to the ringside judges and referee.
This can only be described as Hakuho’s exceptional record giving rise to arrogance. The JSA’s board of directors was quite right to reprimand Hakuho.
It also has been difficult to fathom the approach of Takanoiwa’s mentor and stablemaster, Takanohana. He has continually rejected requests by the JSA’s crisis management committee to speak to Takanoiwa. Takanohana is a JSA director and heads the association’s sumo regional tours division. He should fulfill his responsibility to sort out a problem that happened on a regional tour.
Unless the JSA presents a completely united front, there is little hope of the sumo world regaining the public’s trust.