If one scandal was not enough for the Japan Sumo Association, it now has to grapple with revelations of a sexual harassment incident involving its top referee.
The JSA announced Jan. 5 that Shikimori Inosuke, a venerable name among sumo referees, got drunk during a sumo circuit tour in December and repeatedly kissed a teenaged referee.
The individual's real name is Itsuo Nouchi, 58.
Like sumo wrestlers, referees also must climb up the ladder before they are allowed to handle the bouts in the highest makuuchi division. The referee given the Shikimori Inosuke title usually oversees the final matches of any given day that involve the yokozuna. Nouchi is the 40th referee over the years to take on the Inosuke name.
JSA officials said Inosuke has already apologized to the teenaged referee, adding that the lad is not seeking any disciplinary action or thinking about pursuing the matter with the police.
Even so, JSA officials are considering holding an emergency directors' meeting to determine if disciplinary action is needed. The main reason is that Inosuke instructs and guides all other referees as he stands at the pinnacle of that hierarchy.
The matter came to light Jan. 5 after a referee working in the makuuchi division who learned of the incident reported it to association officials.
According to the JSA, the incident occurred Dec. 16 when the sumo circuit tour made a stop in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture. The tour involves top wrestlers and referees traveling as a group through regional areas that do not normally host a sumo tournament.
Inosuke got drunk and when the teenaged referee escorted him back to his hotel room, Inosuke kissed him a number of times and touched his chest.
Inosuke told JSA officials that he could not recall the incident because he was drunk and was at a loss to understand what led him to carry on in that manner. But he did not deny the sexual harassment, the officials said.
JSA Chairman Hakkaku said he was horrified that the top referee was the culprit since his association has repeatedly cautioned all members about their words and deeds while drinking.
The incident comes on the heels of another incident involving alcohol that led to the premature retirement of yokozuna Harumafuji.
The Mongolian yokozuna repeatedly beat a fellow Mongolian wrestler in late October after a drinking session.
The JSA on Jan. 4 also demoted the stablemaster of the beating victim for not cooperating with the investigation into the incident.