Sayonara Asashoryu

Tokyo (The Japan Times, Kyodo News) Yokozuna Asashoryu retired in the wake of controversy after he allegedly attacked a man while drunk, causing injuries that included a broken nose.

Asashoryu has repeatedly acted in a way unbefitting a sumo grand champion. Still, his retirement is too sudden and at too young an age — he is only 29 — for many fans who will miss the powerful and often charming sumo wrestler.

Asashoryu (real name Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj) was the first Mongolian-born yokozuna. He won his 25th championship at the 2010 New Year’s tournament in Tokyo, gaining a sole possession of third place on the all-time list for most title wins.

It is regrettable that despite his glittering record, he did not learn that a yokozuna should not only be powerful in the ring but also behave in a respectable way. His stable master Takasago and the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) as a whole are also to blame for failing to educate Asashoryu on what is expected of a yokozuna beyond strength and skill.

Sumo’s self-styled enfant terrible, Asashoryu was no stranger to controversy and his frequent breaches of protocol led to an increasingly strained relationship with the sumo establishment. Asashoryu, notorious for striking aggressive victory poses in the ring, received a two-tournament ban in 2007, which sparked a bout of depression, for staying out of a summer regional tour by feigning the degree of his injuries while later taking part in a soccer match in Mongolia.

Asashoryu was also censured by the sumo association for playing golf with other Mongolian wrestlers, including rival yokozuna Hakuho, immediately before the 2009 summer tournament.

He was disqualified in a 2003 bout for grabbing the hair of compatriot Kyokushuzan, a sumo no-no. He picked a fight with Kyokushuzan in the locker room afterward and was later accused of smashing the side mirror of the wrestler’s car.

The incident that finally forced his resignation occurred early on 16 January, 2010. Midway through the New Year’s tournament, Asashoryu went out on the town drinking and allegedly attacked an acquaintance outside a nightclub in the Nishi-Azabu district.

“I am grateful for everything. I will retire,” Asashoryu told reporters. “I have caused a lot of trouble in the world. Right now, my head is clear.”

On 4 January, 2010, the Yokozuna Promotion Council told JSA head Musashigawa that Asashoryu should retire. In a JSA board meeting, to which Asashoryu and Takasago were summoned, Musashigawa followed the council’s advice. If Asashoryu had not resigned, he would have been fired — a great disgrace for a yokozuna. In addition to power and skill, graceful behavior and honor are important attributes for sumo wrestlers. Each stable master must recognize that their responsibilities include instilling in wrestlers the traditions and true spirit of sumo.