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Shock roils sumo world in wake of assault allegation against yokozuna Harumafuji

Yokozuna Harumafuji looks downward while speaking to reporters on the morning of Nov. 14, 2017, in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture. (Mainichi)

FUKUOKA -- The problem of violence in the sumo world has surfaced once more. Yokozuna Harumafuji is facing accusations that he assaulted fellow Mongolian wrestler Takanoiwa with a beer bottle at a banquet on Oct. 26.

Fans arriving at the Fukuoka Convention Center on the morning of Nov. 14 for the third day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament registered disappointment at the news, while the Japan Sumo Association was pressed for a response.

Local university student Ayaka Chuuma, 18, and her mother were among those who had come to the convention center to see the day's matches.

"I've liked sumo since I was in kindergarten, so I'm very sad to hear there was a violent incident," Chuuma said. "Yokozunas shouldn't just be role models to young wrestlers in the ring, but their attitudes should be an example, too. I want them to display an attitude that is an example for younger wrestlers," she continued.

Others were sharply critical, with one 78-year-old Harumafuji fan from Iyo, Ehime Prefecture, telling the Mainichi Shimbun, "If the allegations are true, then what he did is an act unworthy of a yokozuna, who are role models. I want (Harumafuji) to straighten things out."

A 40-year-old man from Tokyo's Setagaya Ward lamented that the incident had happened "just when sumo's image had got better." He added that "a third-party organization should investigate and disciplinary measures taken."

Harumafuji appeared before reporters in front of the Isegahama stable dormitory in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, at about 8:30 a.m., after regular morning practice.

"I am deeply sorry for having caused such great difficulties," he stated with a meek expression.

Isegahama stablemaster and former yokozuna Asahifuji arrived at the Fukuoka Convention Center at around 9:40 a.m., and about 20 minutes later sumo association head Hakkaku (former yokozuna Hokutoumi) and other association executives convened an emergency meeting at the venue. The Isegahama stablemaster left the meeting and returned to his stable soon after.

"I'm going to the Takanohana stable (where Takanoiwa is based). I'm going to apologize and ask how severe the injury was," the stablemaster told reporters before departing for the Takanohana stable dormitory in Tagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture.

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