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Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010


High hopes for new sumo chief

The Japan Sumo Association, which has been rocked by gambling and other scandals suggesting the existence of ties with organized crime, elected stablemaster Hanaregoma, the former ozeki Kaiketsu, as its new chairman in an emergency board meeting late Aug. 12. It is hoped that under his leadership, the JSA will be able to dispel tarnished images about the national sport and win back people's trust in it.

To clean and modernize the sumo world, the education ministry, which supervises the JSA, thought that an outside person should lead the JSA. There once was support for former Tokyo High Prosecutors Office chief Hiroyoshi Murayama, who served as acting JSA chairman while JSA chairman Musashigawa was on probation in connection with the scandal of sumo wrestlers betting on professional baseball games, to become the new JSA chairman. Musashigawa had once expressed his intention to step down but changed his mind and stayed in his position earlier this month at the urging of some JSA members.

Musashigawa, who had undergone a stomach cancer operation on July 21, eventually resigned and the JSA board elected Hanaregoma as the JSA's new chairman. Musashigawa, the former yokozuna Mienoumi, remains as a board member. Hanaregoma's election shows that former sumo wrestlers who form a majority of the board do not want to have an outside person lead the JSA. But there is an encouraging sign.

The new JSA chairman said the JSA must declare as soon as possible its severance of ties with the underworld. He also made clear his understanding that without help from outside people, the JSA cannot be revived.

A committee to discuss how to cope with the underworld will comprise an almost equal number of outside people and JSA members. It will receive support not only from the education ministry but also from the National Police Agency and the (Tokyo) Metropolitan Police Department. A third-party committee reviewing the JSA system of governance is also working. It is hoped that Hanaregoma will create an environment in which JSA members and outside people closely cooperate.

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