Sumo

Japan Sumo Association reprimands yokozuna Hakuho for leading cheer at Spring Basho

Kyodo

Yokozuna Hakuho received a minor reprimand from the Japan Sumo Association on Wednesday for leading an impromptu cheer after his victory at last month’s Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

The 34-year-old Mongolian’s conduct at Edion Arena Osaka was deemed a breach of sumo tradition and discipline at the JSA’s extraordinary board meeting in Tokyo. The reprimand was the governing body’s lightest punishment.

“It is important for sumo wrestlers to take decorum seriously and be able to cherish human things,” JSA chairman Hakkaku said.

“I told Hakuho that because he is a yokozuna, I want him to take the initiative in upholding such traditions and orders, such decorum and beauty of form. From now on I will put more effort into his teaching.”

Hakuho also received a warning from the yokozuna council regarding the behavior and etiquette expected from wrestlers at sumo’s highest rank.

After collecting a record-extending 42nd top-division title, Hakuho led spectators in a traditional sanbon-jime hand-clapping cheer, saying he wanted to “rouse the crowd at the conclusion of the last grand tournament of the Heisei era.”

The JSA criticized the yokozuna for disrupting the flow of ceremonies and preceding the sport’s spiritual kami-okuri ceremony that concludes the tournament and uses the same sanbon-jime cheer.

Japan’s Heisei era will end on April 30 when 85-year-old Emperor Akihito abdicates.

According to elder Shibatayama, the JSA official in charge of Public Relations, Hakuho told a compliance committee that he “wanted to make the audience happy” and that a sanbon-jime cheer would be better than cheering “banzai.”

Hakuho’s stablemaster, sumo elder Miyagino, also took the blame and received a stiffer penalty than his wrestler, a 10 percent salary reduction for three months, for once again neglecting his leadership duties.

Hakuho was severely criticized in November 2017, when he led the crowd in Fukuoka in a banzai cheer on the last day of the Kyushu tournament, when the assault on the lower-ranked Takanoiwa by former yokozuna Harumfuji became known.

The yokozuna told spectators then that he wanted fellow Mongolians Harumafuji and Takanoiwa, who were absent from the tournament, to both return to the ring and urged them to shout banzai in unison.

Hakuho recently applied for a renunciation of his nationality in order to acquire Japanese citizenship — a requirement of all foreign wrestlers wishing to become sumo elders — indicating his intention to remain in the sumo world after he eventually retires.