The Mainichi reported on Jan. 26 about an uproar (if it can be called that) in the sumo world after Sumiyoshi-kai members were spotted occupying ringside tomari-seki seats at the New Year’s sumo tournament on Jan. 18 in Ryogoku, Tokyo.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police Department spotted the head of the gang affiliated with the Sumiyoshi-kai syndicate at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 18. He moved after being prompted to do so by one of the information desk staff.
The gang boss was sitting in one of the ringside guest seats on the south side of the ring. These seats are normally reserved for individuals and companies that have contributed a certain amount to the Japan Sumo Association (JSA), and are not on sale to the public.
Police told reporters an interesting tidbit of information as to why they want to keep the mob out of the arena:
Investigators said they deny organized crime members access to seats for donators because they believe that, “Sumo is broadcast even in jail; by sitting close to the ring and appearing on TV, gang leaders hope to cheer up and show support to members that are serving time.”
(From the Japanese Mainichi article)
Authorities are currently negotiating with the JSA as to whether or not they can prohibit yakuza in the general admission seats as well.
Police and the Japan Sumo Association have been actively trying to oust the yakuza from sumo since last July, when authorities were shocked to see elder members of the Yamaguchi-gumi sitting ringside at a tournament in Nagoya. The JSA made their first-ever retaliation against the yakuza in September at the annual autumn tournament, posting a sign denying entry to organized crime members. In October the group ammended their contracts with seat holders, adding a clause that allowed them to terminate special seats of anyone found to be related to the yakuza.
With some appropriate timing, there’s currently another frenzy going on regarding ex-yokozuna Takanohana, now a JSA member, who is currently steeped on controversey after he announced his intention to run for the JSA board of directors and was tossed out of the Nishonoseki stable group. Recently, weekly photo magazine “Flash” published photos of Takanohana at an event in Kobe in August, 2008, sitting next to a “head of an organized crime group.” Takanohana told the press that he was “invited be long-time supporters, and went because it was a memorial service for those who died in the Kobe earthquake.”
More info at Nikkan Sports (Japanese only)