2018 Hatsu Pre-basho Comments
A great term in Japanese is "sukkiri suru," and it
basically means to be relieved or to be refreshed. The first time I heard the
term was when I had just come out of the bathroom after taking a mondo duke, and
a co-worker asked me, "sukkiri shita?" I did in fact feel relieved and refreshed
thank you very much. In terms of sumo, we haven't had turbulence like this in
between basho for at least half a decade, and even though everything has now
supposedly been resolved, there definitely isn't that feeling of being "sukkiri
shita." There's still a cloud hanging over the sport, and I don't know that it
can ever fully be resolved.
I just didn't have the energy in between basho to keep everyone up to date on
the timeline of things, and part of that was due to my wanting the incident to
be completely resolved before commenting on the situation. Unfortunately,
Takanohana-oyakata kept sandbagging the Association and dragging things into the
new year in hopes that things would just blow over, but this whole "Harumafuji
Assault" issue never has has obtained proper closure because there are just too
many questions left unanswered from the former Yokozuna.
So as we head into the Hatsu basho, let's review all the events that occurred
since senshuraku of the Kyushu basho.
The biggest news in the week following the tournament came in the form of
Harumafuji's retirement announcement. Isegahama-oyakata informed the Association
early on the morning of November 29th that he would be submitting retirement
papers for the Yokozuna, and he did this as a courtesy to the team who was
meeting later on that morning to reorganize the banzuke for the Hatsu basho.
With the investigation still up in the air heading into that Wednesday morning,
they didn't want to risk having Harumafuji's name already printed on the banzuke
for January if he would somehow be forced out in shame causing the Association
to strike out his name from the banzuke as they were forced to do following the
yaocho scandal several years ago.
Later on that afternoon back in November, Harumafuji held a press conference
with his stable master, Isegahama-oyakata. Isegahama had tears in his eyes even
before the press conference started, and before the Yokozuna spoke, he read a
short statement saying that he knew of no prior incident where Harumafuji had
caused any trouble whether inebriated or not.
Harumafuji spoke next and was extremely calm and collected as he offered his
explanation and apology which mainly consisted of the following points: "I did
something a Yokozuna shouldn't do, and I'm sorry. I take full responsibility as
a Yokozuna for my actions. It's a Yokozuna's responsibility to keep those under
him in line, but I went too far with Takanoiwa." As part of the press
conference, he bowed in apology for 25 seconds before fielding questions from
When asked why he participated in the Kyushu basho even after the incident he
replied, "I didn't know it was an assault until the newspapers reported it as
such during the tournament. The morning of October 26th, Takanoiwa came up to me
and thanked me for getting mad at him and said he'll do better. We shook hands
and I thought that was the end of it."
Harumafuji also stressed that this incident had nothing to do with his drinking
alcohol, and he also apologized several times to his stable master, the kamisan,
and others who had made it possible for him to come to Japan and do sumo. There
were no tears in Harumafuji's eyes whatsoever, and there didn't seem to be any
malice in his demeanor. He was extremely calm throughout, and you could just
tell that his conscience was clear and that he had nothing to hide.
The morning after Harumafuji's retirement, top officials from the Sumo
Association held a press conference of their own where they indicated that that
they had conducted their investigation of all parties except for
Takanohana-oyakata and Takanoiwa.
Toshio Takano, the chairman of the emergency committee formed to investigate the
Harumafuji incident, gave a detailed timeline after corroborating the events
from all parties in attendance except for Takanoiwa.
He stated the following timeline as facts of the case:
A number of Mongolian rikishi had dinner in Tottori,
and at the end of that gathering, Hakuho began lecturing Takanoiwa on being more
respectful to his senpai rikishi. Harumafuji stepped in and defended Takanoiwa,
and the group then moved to a second location for after-dinner drinks.
Harumafuji lost his father, and Takanoiwa has lost both parents, so Harumafuji
made an effort to take Takanoiwa under his wing and show him the ropes as well
as teach him the proper discipline. Takanoiwa would confide in Harumafuji and
ask his opinions on matters, and the two would also often dine together.
At the second gathering, Hakuho was reminding Takanoiwa and Terunofuji that the
reason they're here today and doing sumo is because the Tottori Jouhoku High
School allowed them to attend school and participate in sumo, so they shouldn't
forget their obligations to the teachers and coaches at the high school.
As Hakuho was lecturing the two, Takanoiwa pulled out his Smartphone and began
looking at it.
Harumafuji chastised him for pulling out his phone while the Yokozuna was
Takanoiwa said that he received an email from his girl friend.
This irritated Harumafuji who said, "Why do you have such an attitude?"
In an attempt to get Takanoiwa to apologize, Harumafuji struck him multiple
times in the face.
Takanoiwa just gave him a dirty look and didn't apologize.
Harumafuji told Takanoiwa to apologize and began hitting him dozens of times. He
then took a karaoke machine remote control and struck him in the head multiple
Harumafuji next grabbed a Champaign bottle as if to use it in an attack, but the
bottle slipped out of his hands due to condensation on the bottle.
There are no eyewitness reports that Harumafuji struck Takanoiwa with a bottle
Page 2 |