Signs of strife within sumo association emerge ahead police probe of alleged assault

Stablemaster Takanohana demands justice but remains silent about the incident in Tottori

Kyodo, JIJI, Staff Report

Takanoiwa’s stablemaster Takanohana broke his silence on the sumo assault scandal on Sunday, telling supporters at a party that his wrestler’s injuries are serious and that he wants justice, a TV broadcaster reported.

“Takanoiwa’s condition was not something he could’ve normally sustained by tripping or being beaten,” Takanohana was quoted by NTV as saying.

“When I saw the injury that he initially tried to hide from me, I took action quickly. I consulted Tottori Police Station in Tottori and went straight to the prefectural police thereafter.

“As the head of provincial touring (for the Japan Sumo Association), it is my responsibility to seek justice,” the former yokozuna said.

Takanohana has been mum about yokozuna’s alleged attack and has refused to explain his side of the story to the JSA’s risk management panel in the two weeks since the scandal broke, generating suspicion.

Later on Monday, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, an advisory body to the JSA, met to discuss the assault and steps to address it.

During the panel meeting, however, participants stopped short of adopting a recommendation over the assault case.

Masato Kitamura, chairman of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, told a news conference later that most of the participants hold concerns about the reaction of Takanohana to the incident.

As long as Takanohana remains uncooperative, the association may not be able to make a final decision on how to deal with Harumafuji, people familiar with the matter said.

At a morning news conference, yokozuna Hakuho, who is scheduled to be questioned by the police, said he will just “tell them exactly what I saw” during the attack.

On Sunday, the winner of the just-concluded autumn tournament said he would “tell the truth” about the incident to rid the traditional sport of “the pus.”

“A damper has been cast on this tournament,” he said after the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament. “Representing the wrestlers, I’d like to apologize to sumo fans across the nation.”

“I want Harumafuji and Takanoiwa back in the dohyō (ring),” Hakuho said of his Mongolian compatriots after clinching his 40th career title. Both Harumafuji and Takanoiwa, who had his skull fractured in the attack, were absent from the 15-day tournament with injuries.

The JSA’s top official also apologized.

“I offer an apology from the bottom of my heart for causing great worry and inconvenience,” Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku said at Fukuoka Kokusai Center. “We will try to resolve this case as soon as possible.”

Hakuho was present at the bar where Harumafuji allegedly assaulted Takanoiwa during drinks with other Mongolian wrestlers on Oct. 26, striking him with a beer bottle.

Now that the tournament is over, Tottori police are expected to interview wrestlers involved, including Hakuho, before the month is out and then decide on steps against Harumafuji