National

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to skip sumo tournament after scandals

AFP-JIJI

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will not be attending sumo’s new year tournament as the ancient sport deals with a string of deep scandals, the palace told local media Thursday.

Imperial Household Agency Grand Steward Shinichiro Yamamoto said the Japan Sumo Association had cancelled a customary invitation, issued in October, for the couple to watch the tournament later this month, citing “recent situations.”

“We believe their Majesties were disappointed,” he said, according to Jiji Press.

The world of sumo is currently mired by a series of scandals, one of which has seen Harumafuji — previously sitting grand-champion — resign in disgrace and face a ¥500,000 fine for a brutal assault on a rival wrestler while out drinking last year.

The incident has rocked the sport to its core, with the national media intensely covering both the case and the sumo association’s clumsy handling of it.

Another embarrassment hit the sport early in the new year when reports emerged that a top-ranked referee had sexually harassed a teenage trainee.

Officials with the sumo association and the palace could not be reached for immediate comment.

The royal couple previously stayed away from sumo tournaments after various scandals involving wrestlers, including illegal gambling and match fixing suspicions.