Photo/IllutrationYokozuna Hakuho leads sumo fans at Edion Arena Osaka in a hand-clapping ritual in March during an interview after he won the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament. (Ryo Kato)

  • Photo/Illustraion

In the latest controversy tripping up yokozuna Hakuho, the Mongolian was reprimanded on April 24 by the Japan Sumo Association for asking fans to join in a hand-clapping ritual following the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in March.

While the reprimand is the JSA's least harsh disciplinary measure, the fact that a yokozuna who serves as a role model for all sumo wrestlers was disciplined shows its frustration with the repeated number of incidents surrounding Hakuho.

The JSA's legal compliance regulations define as a violation any action that damages the "tradition and order of the way of sumo by failing to abide by proper etiquette and rules of behavior on the dohyo."

The legal compliance committee looked into Hakuho's action on the final day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka while he was being interviewed below the dohyo after winning his 42nd championship with a perfect 15-0 record.

The committee submitted its recommendation to Hakkaku, the JSA chairman, that the yokozuna should be reprimanded.

The hand-clapping ritual that Hakuho asked spectators to participate in is often conducted at conclusions of major events in Japan. However, in sumo tradition, a tournament is not deemed to be over at the trophy ceremony, but only after a ritual is conducted later to see off the gods until the next tournament.

The reprimand comes in the wake of a strict warning issued to Hakuho more than a year ago.

During the interview after he won the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament in November 2017, Hakuho asked the fans to join him in three banzai cheers.

He was only given a warning for that action, but other JSA officials complained that Hakuho had also not shown the dignity required of a yokozuna.

On one memorable occasion at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament in November 2017, Hakuho raised his arm in protest and refused to leave the dohyo after he was declared the loser in a match because he thought the referees and judges had erred in not signaling a false start.

Such acts led some JSA directors to complain that Hakuho had not taken the past warning to heart, leading to the hand-clapping ritual.

(Kensuke Suzuki contributed to this article.)