Takanohana steps down from JSA

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

The Japan Sumo Association attempted to force stablemaster Takanohana to admit that the accusations he filed to the Cabinet Office in March were false.

Instead, the former yokozuna who won 22 Emperor’s Cups in his illustrious career opted to retire from professional sumo.

Takanohana submitted his retirement to the JSA on Tuesday. Later on the same day, at a news conference held in Tokyo, he explained the reason for his decision, Takanohana said he had been pressured by the JSA, which prompted him to retire.

“I believe my accusation was true and can’t say it wasn’t,” Takanohana said. “But to let my pupils continue sumo, I decided to retire from the JSA this morning. The wrestlers and staff that belong to my stable will move to Chiganoura Stable.”

Takanohana, the 65th yokozuna in sumo history, has had a rocky relationship with the JSA since last December, when it was discovered that former yokozuna Harumafuji allegedly hit and injured Takanoiwa, a wrestler from Takanohana’s stable, during last fall’s jungyo (provincial tours that take place between the tournaments).

Takanohana did not report the incident immediately to the JSA after being informed of it and the organization eventually dismissed him as a board director in March.

Then Takanohana filed a letter of accusation to the Cabinet Office, saying the JSA failed to investigate the incident properly. The letter was withdrawn a few weeks later when another pupil, Takayoshitoshi, caused a violent incident during the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

The JSA, according to Takanohana, handed a letter to him that said it had decided the accusation was untrue due to its investigation on Aug. 7.

During the Autumn Basho last week, an executive member of the JSA, who Takanohana refused to name, told Takanohana if he wants to belong to a clan and continue to stay in the JSA, he had to admit the accusation was not true.

Takanohana had quit as the chief of his Takanohana Clan (a group of multiple stables) in June that led to the extinction of the traditional clan. He has not belonged to any clans since, but the JSA established a rule in July that all stablemasters had to belong to one of the five existing clans (Dewanoumi, Nishonoseki, Tokitsukaze, Isegahama and Takasago) by Sept. 27.

“If I continue to refuse to admit, I cannot belong to any clans. That means my pupils cannot practice anywhere,” Takanohana said. “That is not what I want. I, as a stablemaster, want to see my wrestlers grow up and be good fighters. To make it happen, I have to call it quits.”

Officially, Takanohana keeps his status until the JSA receives and recognizes his retirement, but Takanohana denied he will stay in the JSA.

“I quit the JSA, but I will continue to get involved with sumo,” the 46-year-old who became a pupil of his father and former ozeki Takanohana when he was 15 years old. “I have a dohyo ring in my house. I will continue to do sumo activity using that dohyo.”