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Judy's Sumo Pool
A Timeline of the Scandal
It was business as usual this morning for the stables as they returned to their daily grind following the announcement that the Haru basho was cancellend. The Miyagino-beya, which houses Yokozuna Hakuho, taped a sign on the stable door refusing entry to any outsiders. Miyagino-oyakata explained that Hakuho too the day off from keiko, so there was no point in accepting any visitors.
A handful of rikishi also visited the Ryogoku Kokugikan to receive their regularly scheduled health examinations. Among them was Kisenosato who was surrounded by reporters as he entered the building but remained rather tight lipped only offering, "It's unfortunate." Kyokutenho, a 19 year veteran of the sport was a little more talkative as he stated, "The hon-basho were just something that was always there. Now I'm not sure for what purpose we'll do keiko." Juryo rikishi, Sadanofuji, had a bit more stoic approach to the news as he commented, "We received an explanation from our stablemaster yesterday. Keiko is our job, so the only thing we can do at this point is keiko.
While the rikishi were discussing keiko, Stable masters were discussing how they're going to pay for everything now that at least the Haru basho has been cancelled. The Sumo Association takes in $10 - $12 million (US) per basho from the sale of tickets and another $5 million (US) from NHK for rights to broadcast the bouts, but now that the Haru basho has been cancelled and the Natsu basho is still up in the air, the oyakata are fretting over how to pay for everything. For the basho outside of Tokyo, each stable receives about $2,500 (US) per rikishi in the stable to help pay for room and board, keiko facilities, and general expenses during the basho, but the Association has give no word yet how stables will be subsidized during this layoff. Minato-oyakata voiced his concerns to the media saying, "My biggest worry is what we're going to do now that we don't have a hon-basho. We have to pay the bills, and we still have our everyday costs to take care of. Something needs to be done."
The Sumo Association also indicated that the current investigation into the yaocho scandal will require a great deal of time, so putting on a hon-basho during this difficult time would be inappropriate. Stay tuned as Sumotalk will continue to follow the story and provide updates and commentary in a timely manner.
A special meeting among the sport's directors will be held February 6th where it's believed they will seriously discuss the matter. The directors will also receive a report from an outside committee paid to investigate the 14 rikishi and oyakata whose names have surfaced as part of the yaocho scandal. Three of the 14 (Chiyohakuho, Enatsukasa, Takenawa-oyakata) have already admitted to bout fixing. When asked what will determine the Haru basho's being cancelled or held as planned, Hanaregoma Rijicho explained, "We need to hear the report from the special investigation committee first, but I want to address this quickly...at the earliest hour on the earliest day possible. The gambling on baseball issue was a serious matter to us, but this seriousness of this current issue is far greater than that." Hanaregoma Rijicho also acknowledged that Chiyohakuho submitted his retirement papers to the Association, but that they had put them on hold until they can discuss an appropriate punishment for the Juryo rikishi (accepting retirement papers from a sekitori would result in a severance payment).
As for the special committee hired to investigate the yaocho allegations, Chairman Itoh commented, "There is no way for us to grasp the entire situation after talking to the parties involved just once. We are currently in the process of gathering cell phone and bank records for the 14 people in question," suggesting that the committee's findings will not be finalized by February 6th.
Introducing Enatsukasa, the go-between at the heart of the current scandal
Enatsukasa, who entered sumo at the 1995 Haru basho and never reached sekitori status, has served for years as a tsuke-bito for former Makuuchi rikishi Otsukasa and current Juryo rikishi Masatsukasa, so his presence among the dressing rooms at the venues was well-known. Unidentified sources within the Sumo Association indicate that Enatsukasa has been the chief go-between for about three years running.
One of the text messages obtained from Enatsukasa's phone was sent on day 9 of last year's Haru basho. The recipient was Chiyohakuho who was facing Gagamaru that day. The message read, "Today just go straight at him and hit him hard." The result of the bout was a yori-kiri win for Gagamaru. There have also been reports in the media that Enatsukasa kept a notebook where he tracked fixed bouts, recorded payoff amounts, and recorded actual monetary transactions between rikishi. The existence of such a notebook has not been confirmed, but it would surpass the information gathered so far from text messages and could be the focus of the special committee hired to investigat the matter.
Fuji Television, which also sponsors a one-day tournament each year in February, announced that they too would be cancelling this year's event scheduled for this Sunday. The broadcast company stated that they had reached the decision after discussing the current situation with members of the Sumo Association. The company is currently scrambling to fill the time slot where the tournament was scheduled to air.
Former Makushita rikishi explains yaocho details. The SupoNichi sports newspaper sat down with an unnamed former Makushita rikishi who was all too eager to discuss his knowledge of yaocho in sumo. According to the newspaper, this Makushita rikishi was an active fighter in the late 90's and served as a tsuke-bito for a Makushita rikishi. He retired from active fighting in 2007 and cited his reasons for talking to the newspaper as, "my hope that sumo will go through a rebirth and seize this opportunity to rid itself of yaocho." When asked outright if yaocho existed in sumo when he was active, he replied, "Yes indeed. Even the Makuuchi rikishi I was assigned to did it." The Makushita rikishi went on to explain that Makuuchi rikishi have 2 or 3 attendants and that fix bouts are usually determined by a tsuke-bito from each party meeting in the back rooms of the venu to discuss the outcome. "We didn't have text messaging then, so the tsuke-bito for the sekitori took care of everything. Whenever a tsukebito from the West dressing room came over to the East, and whenever an attendant of the rikishi fighting from the East came to the West dressing room, I think they were doing so to negotiate yaocho.
The Makushita rikishi explained that previously there was a very small hallway in the Ryogoku Kokugikan that connected the two dressing rooms, and tsukebito would either use that hallway to visit the other dressing room or the Makuuchi rikishi themselves would meet in that small hallway to talk. He also indicated that yaocho was often a three-way deal where rikishi A would lose to rikishi B who would lose to rikishi C who would lose to rikishi A. In this manner, he explained, it was easier to cover things up. He also said negotiations usually took place after the dohyo-iri and before the actual bout for the day.
In instances where a rikishi couldn't trade a win, he could purchase one, and the going rate in the late 90's was 800K yen (about $10K US) for a Makuuchi bout and 400K for a Juryo bout. According to this former Makushita rikishi, his impression was that more yaocho took place in the Juryo ranks than Makuuchi. Juryo rikishi make approximately 1 million yen per month, but once they fall back down to Makushita, that number goes to zero.
The Makushita rikishi disagreed with Hanaregoma Rijicho's claim yesterday that "yaocho did not exist in the past," but he also wanted to emphasize many rikishi don't participate in yaocho and fight their hardest each basho. "When I was still fighting, there were a lot of rikishi who simply refused to take part. It will be hard for those rikishi to be identified, but I want it to be known that there are a lot of them out there."
As Hanaregoma Rijicho left his stable facilities this morning just after 9 AM on Wednesday, he quickly commented to reporters, "We will gather as much information as possible and determine a strategy to address it. I only know that something has been reported in the media, but I haven't been fully apprised of the matter."
The meeting convened at 1 PM and then was adjourned at 1:30 so the directors could call specific rikishi and oyakata to Kokugikan offices to hear their stories. Summoned were Shotenro, Koryu, Toyozakura, Kyokunankai, Wakatenro, Kiyoseumi, Shiranonami, Chiyohakuho, Yamamotoyama, a Sandanme rikishi, Enatsukasa, and the recently retired Kasuganishiki (current Takenawa-oyakata). Shotenro commented to reporters after the meeting, which ended around 4 PM, "I didn't send any text messages, so I don't know why I was summoned."
What was leaked to the media was a series of text messages between Juryo rikishi Kasuganishiki and Kiyoseumi sent by Enatsukasa acting as a go between. On May 12th at last year's Natsu basho, Enatsukasa sent the following message to Kasuganishiki on behalf of Kiyoseumi, "Would you consider letting me win tomorrow to pick up a shiro-boshi (win)?" Once the two agreed that Kiyoseumi would win the bout, another reply was sent orchestrating the bout that read, "Don't pull and start out with tsuppari. Let me push you too, and then come in close and get into migi-yotsu. It's best if I can win by either yori-kiri or a scoop throw."
Reporters caught up with Enatsukasa outside of the Irumagawa-beya last night and asked for comment. The Sandanme rikishi replied, "Since my name has surfaced here, I'm sure everyone feels as if I've betrayed them."
A reporter then asked, "Do you deny anything?"
"I can't say anything beyond that," was Enatsukasa's reply.
Another exchange between Kasuganishiki and Kiyoseumi during the Haru basho last year read, "Hit me hard at the tachi-ai and just go with the flow."
Kasuganishiki replied, "Got it. I'll go with the flow and give you a fight just a bit."
At the end of basho, Kiyoseumi sent another message to Kasuganishiki that read, "O-tsukare-sama deshita (Way to go this basho). Regarding next basho, if you can, please give me another win? If you can't, I'd like you to give me back the 200,000 yen."
Hanaregoma Rijicho held a press conference in the evening where stated, "It's as if we have betrayed all of our fans and those who love sumo. IF we find out these allegations are true, we will be strict in our punishments."
A special committee will be formed that will include Sumo Association lawyers, who will be in charge of the formal investigation into the matter. As for the Momubusho (Ministry of Education), the government body that oversees sumo, they issued a statement that urged the Sumo Association to get to the bottom of this matter as soon as possible.
The Sumo Association reported to the Mombusho this morning that three members of its association had admitted to bout fixing. The three in question are Chiyohakuho, Enatsukasa, and Takenawa-oyakata.
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