[sumo] Another Look At the Rikishi Ban on Driving

Jeffrey Anderson jeffand at regent.edu
Mon Jan 22 15:43:25 EST 2018

Interesting review on the history of the ban courtesy of the Times of London. Sorry I cannot get a link to you as you have to have an account with them, which I got several months ago when they had a sumo story that I posted to this listserve. Several months...hmmm...they don't cover sumo too often, do they. 😊

Best regards,


The ancient Japanese sport of sumo is embroiled in its latest scandal after one of its stars was accused of violating a rule that bans them from driving.

Osunaarashi, the only Egyptian sumo wrestler, is accused of driving into the back of another car. It was a minor collision that caused little damage and no injuries, but he does not have a valid driving licence — and he faces the wrath of the sport’s professional association for violating its decree that no rikishi, as the sumo strongmen are known, is permitted behind a wheel or on a motorbike.

The rule is intended to preserve the noble image of the sport, whose participants are traditionally regarded as exemplars of old-fashioned virtues of dignity and restraint. But it is also an acknowledgement of the accident-prone nature of some of the wrestling giants once they find themselves in the confines of a car.

Osunaarashi, 25, whose fighting name means “great sandstorm”, insisted that it was his wife who was at the wheel of the car at the time of the collision in Nagano Prefecture on January 3. He told police that he swapped places with her after it happened to protect her because she is pregnant.

But he failed to report the incident to the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) or to the head of his “stable”, or training school. After the story came out he withdrew from the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament now under way at the Ryogoku Sumo Hall in Tokyo. The ban on driving was introduced in 1985 after a wrestler named Mitoizumi was injured in a traffic accident. The JSA appeared at first to be turning a blind eye to its own rule but in 2000 a vehicle driven by a senior wrestler named Toki struck and killed a woman at a crossing, and the ban was enforced more strictly.

In 2007 another sumo star, Kyokutenho, was suspended from a tournament and fined after crashing his car, and three years later the JSA was embarrassed when a video appeared on YouTube showing a party of sumos in a car driven by one of their number. The sport was shaken recently by the enforced retirement of one of its grand champions, Harumafuji, after he fractured a junior wrestler’s skull with a beer bottle during a drunken brawl. Last month a senior referee was found to have sexually assaulted a male junior.

Osunaarashi, who was born Abdelrahman Shalan, fights in the upper levels of the sport’s second division, having been demoted from the top division last year after an injury.

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