Former Ozeki Asanoyama Demoted to Sandanme for Going to Cabaret Clubs, Now Returned To The Ring After 418 Days | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Former Ozeki Asanoyama Demoted to Sandanme for Going to Cabaret Clubs, Now Returned To The Ring After 418 Days

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Asanoyama returned to the main tournament ring on July 11 after an absence of 418 days (Image: Kyodo News)It was past midnight when Asanoyama stepped into the ring at a venue with a sparse crowd. Asanoyama was wearing a plain black mawashi, the uniform worn by makushita and below, but his strength was overwhelming. He twisted an opposing sumo wrestler with his signature right yotsuki, and within three seconds or so, he was out of the ring. 

On July 11, former ozeki-ranked Asanoyama, 28, won his first main tournament in 418 days with a white star. After the bout, he told the press with a mysterious expression on his face.

“I have not been forgiven, but I want people to see me fighting in the ring. I want to regain their support and trust.”

The Asanoyama scandal broke in May 2021. The Shukan Bunshun (weekly magazine) reported that Asanoyama had been frequenting cabaret clubs. Asanoyama’s non-compliance came at a time when the Sumo Association had banned him from eating out due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

“There was a girl in a cabaret club in Kagurazaka, Tokyo, whom Asanoyama liked. At the most, I think he went there three times a week. Asanoyama’s real name is Hiroki Ishibashi, so she called him ‘Bassey’.”

“After the news report, Asanoyama’s response was not good for the Sumo Association’s reputation. When Shibatayama, the director of public relations, Oguruma, the director of compliance, and others asked him, ‘Are you okay with this kind of article coming out?’ He stubbornly denied it, saying, ‘There is no basis of fact.’ When we asked him again about it, he said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and admitted to going to cabarets,” said a sumo association official.

Cleaning the training hall with young wrestlers

Asanoyama won the May 2019 tournament and was presented with a gift cup by then U.S. President Trump (Image: Afro)The Sumo Association took the situation very seriously and suspended Asanoyama for six tournaments and reduced his remuneration by 50% for six months. It has been over a year since the punishment. Asanoyama, who had been demoted to the third rank, returned to the ring.“Asanoyama is now back in the ring. Just because he were a former ozeki does not mean you get special treatment. Asanoyama is not considered a sekitori, but rather a sumo wrestler trainer. They are not assigned to the same rank and must take care of their own personal affairs.”

“Asanoyama sweeps the training hall with a broom, washes the bathrooms, and performs other chores alongside the younger wrestlers. He also serves meals. I heard that he could not even go to the local convenience store except for special cases such as medical treatment. His salary, which was 2.5 million yen per month when he was an ozeki, is now zero.”


Asanoyama suffered a further shock. His grandfather passed away in June of last year, followed by his father in August. Asanoyama’s spirits temporarily waned, and he even contemplated retirement.

He says, “It was my mentors who supported me. My mentor, Takasago Oyakata (former Sekiwake Asasekiryu ), encouraged me, saying, ‘Do your best once more for your parents.’ Junichiro Nakamura, his high school (Toyama Sho) coach, encouraged him by saying, ‘Don’t ever quit. Don’t ever quit. If you quit, you will turn your back on the people around you who supported you.’”

Asanoyama changed his first name from “Hideki,” which was named after his high school coach Hideki Urayama, to his real name “Hiroki. He said the reason for the change was that he could not take the name of his teacher after a scandalous incident. After his victory, Asanoyama also told the press.

“The customers have waited for me for a year. I am very happy to be allowed to wrestle again.”

Asanoyama had seen hell because of his own naivete, used his humiliation as a springboard to become an ozeki again.

Asanoyama with Okinoumi (left) at a Red Feather Community Chest event in October 20(Image: Afro)
  • Photo: Kyodo News Kyodo News Afro

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