A juryo-division wrestler on Monday pulled out of the ongoing Spring Grand Sumo Tournament a day after the revelation that he assaulted a lower-ranked wrestler, dragging the traditional Japanese sport into yet another scandal.
Takayoshitoshi, a 20-year-old wrestler from the Takanohana stable fighting in the second-tier division, admitted to beating the junior, who was serving as his attendant, a couple of times, according to the Japan Sumo Association. The incident followed a high-profile assault scandal last year that led to the retirement of a grand champion.
"I am really filled with a feeling of regret," said the young wrestler, who shed tears as he spoke about the apology he offered his attendant.
Sumo elder Kasugano, the JSA's communications director, said Takayoshitoshi had struck the attendant on Sunday in a dressing room at Edion Arena in Osaka. The wrestler, whose real name is Tsuyoshi Kamiyama, reportedly lost his temper as the attendant was late in notifying him of the time of his match.
Takanohana told reporters at his stable's lodging in Kyoto, "Whatever the reason, the use of violence is unacceptable. I cannot allow him to stand on the sumo ring."
The stablemaster reported Takayoshitoshi's act of violence and apologized for his conduct at a JSA extraordinary board meeting held at the arena, Kasugano said. The association will decide on possible punitive measures against Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana at a meeting of its board of directors on March 29.
The sumo world has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent months, most notably the case in which Takanoiwa, a wrestler belonging to Takanohana's stable, suffered head injuries at the hands of former yokozuna Harumafuji in a drinking session during a regional tour in Tottori Prefecture in October.
Takanohana, who was in charge of regional tours in his capacity as a member of the JSA's board of directors, has been at odds with the sumo body over the handling of the incident. The stablemaster lost that post as punishment, ostensibly for failing to report the assault promptly to the association, despite reporting the case to the police.
"I have taught my wrestlers strictly that violence is a definite evil, but this incident happened," Takanohana, a former yokozuna, told reporters. "I am surprised because (Takayoshitoshi) is a wrestler who makes a steady effort in training."
"Now it's in the hands of the association."
The attendant continued his duties at the tournament. He was not taken to a hospital and apparently will not file a complaint with the police.
Daichi Suzuki, the head of the Japan Sports Agency, echoed the remarks he made last autumn after the scandal surrounding Harumafuji.
"I am extremely disappointed. The association needs to do some soul-searching. They must then consider how to address those areas in which they are not doing enough," he said.
Takayoshitoshi, who was fighting in his first grand tournament in the second-tier division, and his twin brother Takagenji have drawn attention for becoming the first twins to rank in sumo's top two divisions of juryo and makuuchi.
At its extraordinary board meeting Monday, the JSA also approved the withdrawal from the current tournament of a wrestler from the Minezaki stable following the discovery that he assaulted a lower-ranked wrestler at least four times from September to January.