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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 reporters.

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 talking.

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 times.

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

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