Top sumo referee apologises for sexual harassment

TOKYO • Sumo's top-ranked referee sexually harassed a teenage referee last month, Japanese media reported yesterday, in a fresh blow to the ancient sport after a former champion was charged over a brutal assault on a rival.

An intoxicated Shikimori Inosuke molested his male junior on Dec 16 by kissing him and touching his chest at a hotel in Okinawa, where sumo wrestlers were making a winter tour, public broadcaster NHK and Kyodo News said.

The top referee, whose real name is Itsuo Nouchi, apologised to his junior for the harassment, NHK and Kyodo said, quoting Japan Sumo Association officials.

"I don't remember anything as I was heavily drunk," Mr Shikimori, 58, said, according to Jiji Press. "I don't know why I did such an act."

The junior referee has no plans to file a police report, but the association is expected to act, local media said. "It's embarrassing as he is in a position to supervise others as the top referee," the association said.

NHK said the harassment dealt a heavy blow to the association, which has vowed to take preventive measures against scandals as former sumo grand champion Harumafuji was charged late last month over a brutal assault on a rival wrestler while out drinking.

The Mongolian former "yokozuna", sumo's highest rank, faced a summary indictment, meaning he was fined 500,000 yen (S$5,900) but exempted from facing trial. The indictment came about a month after he stepped down, apologising for the embarrassment caused by an outburst in October that left countryman Takanoiwa with a fractured skull.

Yokozuna are expected to be beyond moral reproach but the writing was on the wall for Harumafuji after he confessed to hitting Takanoiwa for texting his girlfriend while he was scolding him over his poor attitude.

The furore has reopened old wounds in the closeted world of sumo after an increase in violence, allegations of illegal betting, links with crime syndicates and drug busts shook the roly-poly sport in recent years.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 07, 2018, with the headline 'Top sumo referee apologises for sexual harassment'. Subscribe