With the Nagoya tournament now underway, Flash (July 27) reports that the ties between sumo and the criminal underworld run much deeper than simply the recent revelations that wrestlers frequently gamble on baseball games and provide seats to matches.
Sources tell the tabloid that relationships are nurtured from the university level. “A senior level member of Kodo-kai which is an affiliate of the Yamaguchi-gumi, happens to like and support one particular wrestler,” explains a person from within the sumo world. “That wrestler is a Nihon University alumnus and that has helped to foster the connection with the yakuza.”
Flash notes that Nihon University’s sumo division is known for bringing up wrestlers like (ex-yokozuna) Wajima and Mainoumi. There are five oyakata (stablemasters) and seven wrestlers currently active in sumo.
Wrestler Kiyoseumi, an understudy of stablemaster and ex-wrestler Kise, is also a graduate of Nihon University. In May, Kise was implicated in the scandal in which members of the Kodo-kai were given ring-side seats at last year’s Nagoya tournament. Furthering the mob connection, Flash provides a photo showing Kiyoseumi wearing the character 忍 (shinobi), which is to honor Shinobu Tsukasa (司忍), the sixth and current leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi, on the front of his traditional hakama, or skirt-like pants.
“A yakuza member was a driver for Kise,” explains one sumo supporter. “He was bragging about how much he is connected to the Kodo-kai. He is actually completely under the thumb of that gang, and that’s not an exaggeration.”
Flash explains that the relationship between the yakuza and sumo used to be that of sponsor and benefactor. But the baseball-betting scandal makes it clear that the landscape has changed. It is now about targeting wrestlers and sucking money out of them.
A former wrestler explains why student-born wrestlers are an easy target. “Those from universities don’t need to go through the basics to reach sekitori status,” the former grappler says of wrestlers who reach one of the top two divisions. “Since they have easy access to cash, they tend to become addicted to gambling. They are also well connected horizontally to their peers. That makes it easy for them to share information.”
The article also links Hiroyoshi Murayama, who is the acting managing director of the Japan Sumo Association, to general contractor Suruga Corporation.
“Suruga paid the Yamaguchi-gumi tens of billions of yen through a front company to implement jiage on properties,” says a former senior level manager at Suruga of the practice where threatening actions are taken to evict tenants from properties prior to their sale. “When that issue rose to the surface, Murayama was a managing director of the firm. Further, Suruga became the first company to enter Mongolian property market, and it did so through a partnership with (ex-yokozuna) Asashoryu’s family business.”
Thus far, the association has dismissed wrestler Kotomitsuki and his stablemaster Otake for gambling on baseball. Other wrestlers and senior advisors received punishments. Former wrestler Mitsutomo Furuichi has been arrested for for extorting 3.5 million yen out of Kotomitsuki in an attempt to conceal the operation.
A writer assigned to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police says that the police have searched 30 sumo stables and are working on indictments, with cell phone calls and emails being scrutinized in order to identify the route between former wrestlers and bookmakers. “They will indict all implicated stablemasters and participants after the Nagoya tournament,” the writer says. “The police are doing whatever it takes to eradicate the Kodo-kai.” (K.N.)
Source: “Boryokudan ga anyaku…kore ga kakukai osen ‘gottsuan sokanzu’ da!” Flash (July 27, page 10)
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