The transfer of the Miyagino stable to the Isekehama stable has raised fears of “mass retirement” of rikishi. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The transfer of the Miyagino stable to the Isekehama stable has raised fears of “mass retirement” of rikishi.

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    Miyagino Oyakata, shown with a luxury brand bag in hand during the March tournament

The Japan Sumo Association announced that Miyagino Oyakata (former yokozuna Hakuho), his stable, and all related wrestlers will transfer to the Isekehama stable. The Miyagino stable has been virtually “closed,” although some have suggested that the stable be “shut down” due to its responsibility for the long neglect of the assault by Hokushoho. The period of time has not yet been decided. From now on, the general manager of the stable, Isekehama Oyakata (former yokozuna Asahifuji), will report on the “rehabilitation” of Miyagino Oyakata to the executive board of the AJSA after each tournament. The transfer of Miyagino will re-stage the “forbidden battle” between the two. No one in the sumo world is unaware of the “dog-and-monkey” relationship between Miyagino and his stablemate Terunofuji. The relationship is dangerous and irreconcilable due to a grudge stemming from the “Hima Fuji assault incident” in Tottori in October 2005.

For Terunofuji, it was a humiliating “Kneeling on the Ground Incident.”

The “transfer” of the Miyagino stable to the Isekehama stable is a “minefield” where anything could happen in the future. At the center of it all are Miyagino’s stablemaster and the Isekehama stable’s lone yokozuna, Terunofuji. The incident occurred on October 25, 2005. On the night before the Tottori tour the following day, Hima Tomishi, then yokozuna, assaulted Kinoiwa, a junior Mongolian rikishi. The feud between Chancellor Yasumi Hakkaku (former yokozuna Kitakatsumi), who wanted to calm things down, and Takanohana, the master of the victim (Kinoiwa), became a heated row.

The final result was that Takanohana resigned from the Sumo Association, and the “all-out confrontation” between Miyagino and Terunofuji began.

The incident involving Himafuji’s assault was triggered by a dinner party between officials of Tottori Johoku High School, a powerful sumo school, and Mongolian wrestlers, led by Miyagino Oyakata, an alumnus of the school. In fact, that was not the only problem. Himafuji and Miyagino gave Terunofuji, who was carrying bombs in both knees, a lecture under the influence of alcohol, saying that he had a “bad attitude.

Himafuji forced Terunofuji to sit on his knees and then pulled his cheeks down. Miyagino Oyakata got angry when he said, ‘There is a wall between the two yokozuna,’ and demanded Terunofuji sit on the floor and get down on his knees again. He continued to scold Terunofuji even when Terunofuji was on his knees, suffering from severe pain in both knees. This aggravated Terunofuji’s pain in both knees, and he is still in shambles.

The feud between Terunofuji and Miyagino started from this incident. About four years after the incident, Yokozuna Hakuho and Terunofuji, then an ozeki, went head-to-head in a winner-take-all match at the Nagoya tournament in 2009.

The two wrestlers exchanged powerful hand slaps, and it was a true fistfight,” said Hakuho. It was literally a gachinko match, but in the end, Hakuho won with a kote nage (small hand throw). Immediately after that, he struck a gut-pose toward Terunofuji. This was the moment that decided Hakuho’s 45th and final victory. Terunofuji is said to call Miyagino oyakata “that man,” and he still holds a considerable grudge against him from that time.

    Isekehama stable famous for “intense practice” of more than 100 matches every day

    Of the 45 sumo stables, the Isekehama stable is famous for its “intense practice.

    The Isekehama stable is different from other sumo stables, where young wrestlers practice from 40 to 50 rounds a day. In other rooms, young rikishi practice 40 to 50 rounds a day, but in the Isekehama stable, they practice more than 100 rounds every day,” said a sumo journalist.

    Terunofuji, the yokozuna, is in charge of leading this intense training. Takanofuji, who became the first wrestler in 110 years to win his first tournament in the new division in the spring tournament, says, “I was able to win the championship and I am where I am today because of the training I had with yokozuna (Terunofuji). When he is in good physical condition, Terunofuji gives “kawaii” (more intense practice than usual) to younger rikishi, and is aware of his responsibility as the sole yokozuna . He also treats the rikishi in the other rooms with affection.

    Many rikishi in the Miyagino stable say , “I can’t stand such intense training, and I don’t want to go to the Isekehama stable. Although it is not a transfer like this one, past sumo stable mergers have not produced good results.’ In 1993, during the heyday of Wakaki, the Fujishima and Futagoyama stable merged. The two rooms now have a total of 50 wrestlers.

    There was a feud between the supporters’ associations of the two rooms, and trouble between the Fujishima and Futagoyama wrestlers, which led to the resignation of many young wrestlers. There was also a feud between the Wakaki brothers, and the merger clearly led to the decline of the Futagoyama stable.

    The executive board of the Sumo Association of Japan, which oversees the Miyagino stablemaster, is not a monolithic body.

    It was the executive committee that decided to transfer the Miyagino stable to the Isekehama stable.

    The Asakayama stable (whose stablemaster is former ozeki Kaio) was also mentioned as a candidate, but it was a cramped stable with only nine rikishi, so in the end, the Isekehama stable was chosen,” said a sumo association official.

    The Sumo Association is also in turmoil. In September of last year, inappropriate labor management and power harassment by Tetsuji Miyata, the head of the association’s office staff, were pointed out, and Miyata was suspended from work for one month, but he is still “continuing” in the same position. The governance system of the Sumo Association has only worsened since he is considered to be the right-hand man of Chancellor Yasutomo Hakkaku. Isekehama, who was in charge of Miyagino’s rehabilitation, has been demoted from the board of trustees due to the scandals involving his disciples, and is now approaching retirement at the age of 65.

    Terunofuji is certain to succeed him. The executive board of the association has announced that the transfer of the Miyagino stable will be indefinite. It is unthinkable that Terunofuji will retire and become Isekehama oyakata to rehabilitate Miyagino oyakata.

    The Hakkaku Executive Committee, now in its fifth term, “made a personnel change to move Shibatayama Oyakata (former yokozuna Ohnokuni), who objected to this approach, to the left from his position as head of the public relations department, and Kasugano Oyakata (former sekiwake Tochinowaka) was selected as the No. 2 business manager in the Executive Committee. There is a great possibility that Hakkaku Oyakata will stay on as chairman of the board for almost five more years until his retirement at the age of 65,” he said.

    If the forbidden battle between Miyagino and Terunofuji breaks out again, the day will come when Miyagino will finally leave the Sumo Association.

    • PHOTO. Sankei Shimbun (2nd photo)

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