Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will not go to the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament later this month, the Imperial Household Agency said Thursday, following an assault scandal that led to the retirement of grand champion Harumafuji.
The Japan Sumo Association had in October invited the emperor and empress to the New Year meet as having sumo bouts performed in front of the imperial couple in a year's first tournament is customary.
But given former Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji's assault on another wrestler, the sumo association informed the Imperial Household Agency to retract its invitation offer this week, the agency's Grand Steward Shinichiro Yamamoto said in a regular press conference.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko had visited the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo stadium in Tokyo to watch bouts in the New Year meet over the past three years.
The imperial couple had skipped watching the New Year meet before when the sumo world was mired in a series of scandals involving an assault resulting in the death of a sumo wrestler and illegal possession of marijuana by sumo wrestlers.
In the latest scandal rocking Japan's traditional sport, Harumafuji ended his 17-year career in November after admitting to assaulting fellow Mongolian wrestler Takanoiwa in a drinking session at a bar during a regional tour in western Japan in late October. Lower-ranked Takanoiwa required stitches on his head.
The New Year meet will start Sunday and end Jan. 28.
Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate on April 30, 2019.