JSA ready to call special meeting over sumo referee molestation allegation

Kyodo

The Japan Sumo Association is likely to call an extraordinary session of its board of directors soon to discuss punishment for a referee accused of sexual harassment, the second scandal to mar the traditional sport in recent months.

Top-ranked referee Shikimori Inosuke molested a teenage referee during December’s winter tournament, according to the JSA.

The 58-year-old tategyoji (top referee), whose real name is Itsuo Nouchi, molested the teen by kissing him several times and touching his chest after becoming heavily intoxicated at a lodging facility on the night of Dec. 16, the first day of the regional tournament in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, the association said Friday.

Nouchi, apologized to the younger referee before the JSA learned about the incident on Friday evening. He told the director of the association’s crisis management panel, Toshio Takano, that he does not recall the incident, the JSA said.

Upon learning of the incident on Friday, the JSA’s crisis management panel, which had been busy since November investigating former yokozuna Harumafuji’s assault on another wrestler, was called on to question Shikimori and the young referee.

At the interview, Shikimori, who had previously apologized to the teen, claimed not to remember the incident because he was drunk, and said he was uncertain how it could have happened.

Following the previous scandal, sumo elder Kasugano, the JSA’s communications director, was in charge of the Okinawa regional tour and demanded people be conscious of their acts.

Sumo elder Miyagino, to whose stable Shikimori belongs, apologized on Saturday.

“An inappropriate act took place, and I sincerely apologize,” Miyagino said.

“He drank alcohol and lost his head. There’s nothing for him but to give up drinking,” Miyagino added.

According to the JSA, problems related to Shikimori’s drinking had been observed in the past.

The younger referee is not planning to file a police report but the JSA will hold an extraordinary board meeting to discuss potential punishment.

“It is truly regrettable that a tategyoji who is in a position supervising others has done a thing like that,” JSA Chairman Hakkaku said.

The case comes on the heels of an assault scandal that led to the retirement of former yokozuna Harumafuji, and the demotion of sumo elder Takanohana from his JSA director post. Harumafuji ended his 17-year career in November after admitting to attacking a fellow Mongolian wrestler from Takanohana’s stable. The skull-cracking incident took place at a bar during a regional tour in Tottori in late October.