National / Social Issues

Sumo association queried about hate speech taunts during spring tourney

Kyodo

The Japan Sumo Association has been questioned by the government over reports that hate speech was directed at Mongolian ozeki Terunofuji during the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, according to a source close to the association.

Media reports said Terunofuji became the target of jeers and taunts after his controversial 14th-day victory in the tourney, when he was tied for the lead with debutant yokozuna Kisenosato. He entered the day’s bout with a 12-1 record before slapping down sekiwake Kotoshogiku.

But his victory drew criticism from fans and sumo elders alike. Terunofuji jumped the gun on his charge, and after the wrestlers regrouped for another go, Terunofuji leaped out of the way of Kotoshogiku and knocked him down as he passed by, instead of taking him head-on as the fans at Edion Arena Osaka expected.

Some media reported that the expression “Go back to Mongolia” was hurled at Terunofuji after the match. The government says phrases like these are prime examples of hate speech.

According to the source, the JSA claimed it was difficult to confirm such heckling took place but said it will continue to deal with spectators in line with its crowd etiquette agreement, which prohibits violent conduct and abusive language.

A subsequent loss by the wildly popular Kisenosato, who had injured his arm the day before, handed Terunofuji the sole lead.

His victory also confined Kotoshogiku to the sekiwake ranks. Kotoshogiku entered the penultimate day needing two wins to reclaim ozeki status, which he lost after chalking up two straight tourneys with losing records. Terunofuji was also at risk of losing his ozeki rank after a losing record in January, but defied the odds to take the lead into the final day. Due to niggling knee injuries, he lost twice to the wounded Kisenosato, who captured his second championship in dramatic fashion.