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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Sumo Stablemaster Miyagino Demoted as Punishment for Wrestler's Violence at Stable

Emphasizing the stablemaster's responsibility for his wrestler's behavior, the JSA cut his pay and demoted the winningest yokozuna in sumo history by two ranks.



Stablemaster Miyagino (left) and sumo wrestler Hokuseiho speak to reporters at Miyagino stable in Tokyo on February 23. (KYODO)

Retired yokozuna Hakuho has received a two-rank demotion as a sumo elder from the Japan Sumo Association due to his protege Hokuseiho's repeated violence against two junior wrestlers at Miyagino stable.

Sumo's governing body made the announcement on Friday, February 23.

What's more, Hakuho, now formally known as stablemaster Miyagino, will not oversee his stable during the upcoming Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, which gets underway on March 10. Instead, an acting stablemaster will fill that role.

A Promising Sumo Wrestler's Career is Over

The JSA had planned to make a formal request for Hokuseiho, 22, to retire, according to multiple published reports. But he said on Friday that his career is finished. The Mongolian-born wrestler made his professional sumo debut in March 2020, and he reached as high as No 6 maegashira.

Hokuseiho puts the finishing touches on a victory over Asanoyama on July 13, 2023. (KYODO)

Hokuseiho, whose given name is Ariunaa Davaaninj, was considered a strong up-and-coming wrestler. 

But starting in July 2022, he repeatedly channeled violence against two younger wrestlers at the stable, the JSA announced based on its compliance committee's findings. Hokuseiho's unacceptable behavior included "slapping their faces, backs and testicles, hitting their buttocks with a broom handle and lighting insecticide spray to project flames at them," Kyodo News reported.

Expressing remorse, Miyagino (left) and wrestler Hokuseiho bow during a press conference in Tokyo on February 23. (KYODO)

Sumo Legend Faces Major Rebuke

The full gravity of the situation was apparent in Miyagino's remarks to reporters on Friday — and in the JSA's rebuke of the sumo legend.

"I failed to protect my disciples, and I take that responsibility very seriously," Miyagino, 38, was quoted as saying by The Asahi Shimbun.

The JSA said Miyagino "lacks the training and awareness of a master," Nikkan Sports reported.


With the demotion, the winningest yokozuna in sumo history (45 Emperor's Cups) slipped from iin (committee member) to toshiyori (elder), the lowest rank. He also was forced to take a 20% pay cut for three months.

Miyagino claimed he did not know that Hokuseiho was abusing the junior wrestlers for more than a year, starting in July 2022.

Now, Miyagino is under the watchful eye of the JSA. Future rule violations at the stable could likely lead to the end of his tenure as a sumo elder.  

In the hierarchy of punishment meted out to sumo elders, demotion ranks third on the list of seven items. At the top? A retirement recommendation is No 2 and No 1 is banishment from the Japan Sumo Association.

Well-publicized hazing scandals and bullying by wrestlers and stablemasters against younger wrestlers and other violent incidents away from the dohyo or training stables have cast a negative light on Japan's ancient sport in recent decades.

Continue reading the full story, which includes news items on sumo, baseball, soccer, track and field and the Paris Olympics, on SportsLook.


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven


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