Japan gripped by sumo pot scandal

By Mark Willacy

Japanese sumo wrestler Wakakirin was arrested on charges of possessing cannabis.
Japanese sumo wrestler Wakakirin was arrested on charges of possessing cannabis. (AFP: Jiji Press)
Forget companies racking up multi-billion dollar losses and tens of thousands of workers being thrown on the scrap heap.
A sumo wrestler named Wakakirin and 16 grams of cannabis have managed to push the story of Japan's economic meltdown out of top spot in the national news bulletin.

In a country where marijuana possession can land you in jail for five years, the fall of Wakakirin was raked over in lurid detail.

It was left to the 25-year-old's stable master, Oguruma, to front the press and explain why his charge's career has gone up in smoke.

Wiping tears from his eyes, the stable master explained that if he had to describe Wakakirin's actions in one word, it would be "idiot".

"I apologise that it came to this," he said.

This isn't the first time a sumo wrestler has been arrested on charges of possessing cannabis.

Three Russian wrestlers were thrown out of the sport last year.

But this is the first time a home-grown sumo has been busted and on the streets of Tokyo there is little sympathy for Wakakirin.

"It's a pity a Japanese wrestler was using marijuana," one man said.

"It's a great shame because the majority of wrestlers train very hard," a woman said.

"A salaried worker would be fired immediately and would lose his retirement money, he deserved his punishment," a sumo fan said.

Sumo is struggling to shake off the taint of controversy and corruption.

As well as recreational drug scandals, the sport was floored by the killing of a young wrestler by his stablemates.

So among Wakakirin's fellow sumo there is anger over his stupidity and his tarnishing of the ancient sport.

"Every wrestler, including myself, must be more vigilant and careful and must honour sumo," top-division wrestler Kisenosato said.

For Wakakirin his career is over and he could even face jail.

So just like tens of thousands of other Japanese, Wakakirin has found himself out a job.

But unlike his unfortunate countrymen, the former sumo has no one to blame for that but himself.