Yokozuna Asashoryu retired Thursday in the wake of controversy after he allegedly attacked a man while drunk, causing injuries that included a broken nose.
He 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 was the first Mongolian-born yokozuna. He won his 25th championship at the New Year’s tournament in Tokyo, gaining 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 as a whole are also to blame for failing to educate Asashoryu on what is expected of a yokozuna beyond strength and skill.
Previous bad behavior by Asashoryu, notorious for striking aggressive victory poses in the ring, included grabbing the hair of compatriot Kyokushuzan in a 2003 bout and playing golf with other Mongolian sumo wrestlers immediately before the 2009 summer tournament. In 2007, he was given a two-tournament ban after he skipped a regional tour, claiming to be seriously injured, only to then take part in a soccer match in Mongolia.
The incident that finally forced his resignation occurred early Jan. 16. 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.
On Thursday, 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.