Accused of Sexual Harassment, Top Ref Resigns

The top-ranked referee in sumo has resigned after being accused of sexual harassment.

At a meeting of its Board of Directors on Saturday, the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) announced it had suspended Shikimori Inosuke for three tournaments after Inosuke was accused of sexually harassing a teenage referee. The JSA will formally accept Inosuke’s resignation after the May Grand Sumo Tournament when his suspension officially ends.

The incident comes at a time when the sport of sumo is under a dark cloud of several scandals. The association is still investigating then-yokozuna Harumafuji’s assault on a fellow sumo wrestler at a bar back in October.

In fact, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will not attend the New Year’s Grand Sumo Tournament in wake of the scandals. This is the first time in four years the emperor and empress will not be in attendance.

“At this time, following in succession after the assault issue, we had this incident of Inosuke’s inappropriate acts,” JSA chairman Hakkaku said at a press conference. “I’m sorry for this.”

While on a regional tour of Okinawa last month, Inosuke — under the influence of alcohol — allegedly inappropriately touched a junior referee and kissed him. The junior referee declined to press charges.

JSA senior executives said Inosuke has been involved in previous incidents while drunk, and Shikimori reportedly told the panel he had no memory of the incident with the junior referee. Regardless, Shikimori apologized for the incident.

The JSA also handed down warnings to sumo elder Kasugano, who is now in charge of regional tours, and sumo elder Miyagino, whose stable Inosuke belongs to.

The upcoming January Grand Sumo Tournament will go on without a head referee, the first time such an event has happened such 1994.

“Being a head referee comes with heavy responsibility. We wanted to give him time to reflect on this,” Hakkaku said. “My hope is that the wrestlers summon every ounce of strength they possess and put on a fine display of sumo. We need to put on a good show for the fans.”

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