Dejima Award for racist Sumo Kyoukai: Decides to count naturalized Japanese as foreigners and limit stables to one “foreigner”


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Hi Blog.  In one more step to define Japan’s slide into international irrelevance, the national sport (kokugi) has decided to turn not only exclusionary, but also undeniably racist.  The Japan Sumo Association announced this week that it will no longer count naturalized Japanese sumo wrestlers as “real Japanese”.  Then it will limit each stable to one “foreign” wrestler, meaning “foreignness” is a matter of birth, not a legal status.  This is a move, we are told by the media, to stop sumo from being “overrun with foreign wrestlers”.

That means that if I wanted to become a sumo wrestler, I would become a foreigner again.  Even though I’ve spent nearly a quarter of my life (as in close to ten years) as a Japanese citizen in Japan.

Well, fuck you very much, Sumo Kyoukai.  You are the shame of Japan.  And I present you with your special Dejima Award (complete with a big loogie on top) reserved only for the most breathtakingly exclusionary moves seen in a society that even the UN says allows “deep and profound” racism.

You’d think with Takanohana’s coup-ascension to the upper echelons of the JSA, that things would be liberalizing.  Nope.  They’re going the other way.  I thought as much.

How about having some international sports leagues limit their Japanese players to one — say, Japanese in Major League Baseball teams? Including those Japanese who have naturalized?  Oh wait, do I hear calls of racism from the Japanese Peanut Galleries?  Yes, the shoe on the other foot would pinch, wouldn’t it?  And the sport as a whole would suffer since innate talent (as we have seen by the number of talented sumo rikishi from overseas) is hardly a nativist issue.  But try telling that to the racist JSA.

Arudou Debito in transit, wondering what kind of a Japan he’s returning home to.


JSA to change rule on foreign sumo wrestlers
Japan Today Wednesday 24th February 2010, Courtesy lots of people

TOKYO — The Japan Sumo Association decided on Tuesday it will allow only one foreign-born wrestler per stable, meaning the one slot reserved for foreigners, which until now would become vacant when wrestlers took Japanese citizenship, cannot be filled.

For example, if a Mongolian-born wrestler belonging to a stable were to gain Japanese citizenship, other foreign wrestlers would be prohibited from joining the same stable.

JSA Chairman Musashigawa notified stablemasters of the decision made at an extraordinary meeting at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan the same day.

The existing restriction on foreigners will be in effect until newcomers for next month’s spring tournament undergo physicals, after which the new rule will be imposed.

‘‘You get the impression it is a severe measure but if the brakes are not applied somewhere, there will be more and more stables overrun with foreign wrestlers, so it can’t be helped,’’ said one stablemaster.

In recent years, the number of foreign wrestlers has been on the rise, as the existing loophole leaves a vacancy once someone from a respective stable gains Japanese citizenship.

Four Mongolian-born wrestlers and two Chinese-born wrestlers have taken Japanese citizenship since April last year.

The JSA decided in February 2002 to ‘‘limit the number of foreign wrestlers who can be recruited to one per stable.’‘

The latest shakeup in the JSA comes after Mongolian-born former grand champion Asashoryu quit the sport just weeks earlier following allegations he attacked a man outside a Tokyo night club in a drunken rage.

Sumo has been rocked to the core in recent years by a spate of scandals, including charges of drug violations, a death threat and a six-year prison term meted out to a stablemaster over physical abuse leading to the death of a 17-year-old wrestler.

There are nearly 60 foreign wrestlers in sumo today.


35 comments on “Dejima Award for racist Sumo Kyoukai: Decides to count naturalized Japanese as foreigners and limit stables to one “foreigner”

  • It’s really a sickening policy. Love the use of the word “loophole”.

    Debito – as a former longer-term resident of Japan, I recommend you immigrate to Canada (I doubt it’s in your plans). Heck, we’ll even give you citizenship after a few years, and not hold it against you …

    Ahh – the Japan I love – corrupt automakers (hello Toyota), evil sports federations, and a slate of exclusionary businesses.

  • Debito, head for the hills! I remember my citizenship test for Canada, and I remember learning all about the rights and duties of a citizen. I remember there were distinct advantages to being a citizen, and how equality under the law meant something. I remember the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and practically memorized them.

    Apart from not getting printed at re-entry, voting, not needing an ARC and one or two other things, I honestly, for the life of me, cannot figure out the benefits of Japanese citizenship?!? Especially in the light of this JSA report, and the succession of black-van anti-internationalization of Japan protests you’ve featured over the past year or so. So, not content with ranting against Hallowe’en (of all things) now one can be the “wrong kind of Japanese citizen!” Defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

    I’m not trying to discourage you, and I know you’re in transit. Maybe some contributors could offer some positive points on this? Right now, from my rain-soaked perch in Europe, I just can’t see any forest, or any trees either! Is obtaining Japanese citizenship even worth the trouble? It seems that each time an international resident naturalizes, they just keep raising the bar of acceptance as a person, never mind recognition of the new citizen as an equal among equals. To me it’s state-sponsored Shima-Guni syndrome run amok.

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    Ah, the number of times I’ve heard various people on TV complaining that “We need a Japanese yokozuna”

    To which I privately replied,
    “What does one of those look like?”

    Seriously though, I remember similar arguments back in the 90’s about limiting the number of foreign rikishi to two per stable, and one oyakata (who passed away a few years back, but whose younger son has become a riji despite not being a member of the kyokai long enough!!) criticizing another for recruiting several mongolions.
    I wonder how much input this particular son had in regards to this policy…

    Also, I see part of the problem (apart from racism) as being the mindless habit (or “tradition”,a some people like to say) of putting the rikishi’s prefecture (or country) of birth on the banzuke. This is completely irrelevant and only serves to reinforce the notion of insiders vs. outsiders.

  • I don’t think that’s exactly it. It says that if a foreign wrestler takes Japanese citizenship, the stable-master is not allowed to bring a new foreign wrestler in to take his place.

    It reminds me of soccer in Spain where I’m living right now. Brazilian legends like Ronaldo and Ronaldinho take out Spanish citizenship – this way their clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona are able to hire additional foreign players and circumvent the league’s policy to limit the number of foreign players on each team. In Spain they have resigned to this abuse of the rules but it seems like Sumo in Japan has not…

    Personally, I do not agree with this rule. However, I can see the logic of the Sumo Kyokai. The problem is that you cannot clearly separate the people who are forced to take Japanese citizenship by their stable masters to keep their place in the stable from the people who genuinely want to become Japanese.

    — So intent or motive means you’re less of a Japanese citizen? I thought it was a matter of qualification. It’s a tough test to qualify, remember.

  • Every time I read your website Debito I am always impressed. You have lived in Japan, what almost 20 years? And you have been able to resist being sucked into believing Japanism and have not become an apologist for the status quo.

    I am really surprised to hear this about the sumo wrestler association. I have seen sumo wrestlers of many varied nationalities. I think the top guy for awhile was born in Hawaii? I took this as a sign of Japan being an open and tolerant country, much like western nations.

    I get the feeling Japan is turning back the clock and going back into isolation much like before Commodore Perry forced Japan to become part of the world. On a side note in Yokohama, they sell plush toy dolls shaped like a black boat with menacing eyes to represent the gun ship that Perry sailed on. I guess not even Perry can live down being a foreign barbarian after 200 years.

    — I’ve lived in Japan 23 years.

  • @Alexander
    The difference is that Ronaldinho and Ronaldo didn’t have to give up their Brazilian passports, so you can make the argument that they’re “abusing the rules”. Getting a Japanese passport means “burning the ships” after 2 (or was it 3?) years, and so I doubt anyone would do it purely for the sport. These people are in for the long haul, not for piles of cash they can take back home.

    Either way, if that was their concern, they could make the rule specifically for recently naturalized wrestlers. For example, having them count toward the “foreigner count” for a few years, after which the stable can bring in another foreigner. Even that is undesirable, but at least it wouldn’t be outright racist. But as the quote shows, they don’t want to be “overrun” by NJ, whatever that means.

  • I think a lot of sports organizations have some kind of rules like this- in Canada, the Canadian Football League restricts how many imported players (read ‘Americans’) are allowed on each team. Similarly, Japanese pro baseball does the same thing.

    However, those leagues also have provision for long term foreign players to be removed from that category after a certain period of service- Bobby Rose comes to mind in baseball. For it to apply to naturalized citizens is AFAIK unprecedented.

  • debito,

    im sorry but i cant resist
    i think there is a loud clamour for you to be seen in a mawashi…

    — I’m certainly in their weight class. But the rules say I’d have to apply by 23 years of age.

  • So what happens if someone is born ‘foreign’ in Japan? Does someone who was born in Japan to non-citizen residents, grows up here, and naturalizes, count as a ‘foreigner’? Did they even think this through? I’d love to see the rules they’ve made for this since it would require some sort of definition of ‘foreign-born’. Would a kid born abroad to Japanese citizens count as ‘foreign’? This is depressing.

  • This rule also doesnt quite make sense, if they really want to discriminate they should come out and say what they really mean not say foreign-born.
    Presumably ethnic Japanese are born overseas all the time and return to Japan as Japanese citizen. So does this mean they would also be counted as foreign and limited in numbers?

    — Ask them. They have a phone number.

  • The Japanese news sites seem to be characterizing the rule change as, to use Kyodo’s language: 1部屋につき1人とした外国人力士枠の申し合わせについて「1部屋に外国出身者1人」と変更して採用規制を強化することを決めた。

    What’s interesting (to me) about the new rule is that they seem to be looking at a person’s place of origin rather than their nationality. The way I understand the new rule, a foreigner born and raised in Japan might count as Japanese, and a Japanese citizen born and raised overseas might count as a foreigner. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the sumo association’s original rule on their website.

    This would be a great issue for the Supreme Court to take up. Article 14 of the Constitution bans racial and gender discrimination by the government with regard to citizens (at least). It does not directly apply to private actors like the Sumo Association, but the Supreme Court has previously applied the constitutional standard of gender discrimination to private actors through Article 90 of the Civil Code, which invalidates legal acts contravening public policy. There is a bit of discussion about this legal theory at

  • This is truly surprising. It is like an admission that Japan can’t compete with the rest of the world. Rather than elevate the level of play found in sumo they would prefer to keep it at a level that the Japanese can compete in- this is the only reason I can see behind this type of rule. Hey Japan, why not also create your own winter olympics for Japanese only- you’ll be sure to win some medals then.

    Amazing that the laws of this land can allow for such a thing.

  • All Japanese are equal, but some Japanese are more equal than others.

    The happy world of George Orwell is here.

  • Japanese version from Asahi:

    外国人力士1部屋1人を再確認 相撲協会師匠会


  • Regarding #4, “The problem is that you cannot clearly separate the people who are forced to take Japanese citizenship by their stable masters to keep their place in the stable from the people who genuinely want to become Japanese.”

    A fair enough argument but that’s not the Sumo Kyokai’s job. The MOJ needs to review the individual’s application, and if it smacks of “I don’t really want to do this but my oyakata is making me so he can recruit another Mongolian,” not grant citizenship in that case. Weeding out people who want citizenship for the wrong reasons is the job of the people who grant citizenship, not the people in charge of what is, after all, just a sport. A sport that is going to lose a lot of fans, money, ratings, ticket sales, etc with no real competition for Hakuho now too. Hopefully the loss of popularity they WILL experience as a result of losing Asashoryu will be enough to shock these guys into reality, that unless its murder or steroids, most aspects of an athlete’s personal life don’t matter, as long as he does what you’re paying him to do in the ring.

  • I find this interesting because “real” Japanese people (not fake foreigners, not of pure blood) have all the advantages- culture, education, family, Yamato damashi, pure blood, a 1,000 years of culture that foreigners can never understand, monozukuri, budo seishin, heritage and wa. But apparently all these inherent, racial, eugenically different, cultural, nurture advantages don’t equate to the correct result.

    In fact there is no such thing as a fair playing field- because this is a foreign concept. Because it is a gaijin concept, it does not apply to Japan, with it’s unique and special traditions, history, culture, and pure blood. In fact, because I am not Japanese, I’ll never be able to understand why Japanese are special and not racist. In fact, the mere term racial discrimination is in applicable to Japan. Japanese can’t be racist, because they are special and different from everyone else (gaijin) and it’s a foreigners problem.

    So the best way to prove this is change the rules and suppress the number of foreigners so the natural order of Japanese can reassume itself.

    If only the entire rest of the world understood this, then everything would be fine. In fact there would be world peace, with Japan in it’s rightful place as the modest and wise.

    In fact, I must realize when the Japanese discriminate against others, it is because they are the victims. Japan only conquered and murdered all those Chinese and Koreans (sorry fellow Asians, but not Japanese) to save them from the evil white man….

    …it seems that all the Nippon Sumo Kyokai believes in divide and loose.

  • An outrageous racist ruling from the rulers of what is a dying sport. How many japanese kids want to be sumo wrestlers these days? This ruling just hastens sumo’s demise.

  • “…Hey Japan, why not also create your own winter olympics for Japanese only-..”

    Hmmm…sounds like the “World Series”!!!

  • Tony In Saitama says:

    Sadly, another reason for me to reconsider taking citizenship. (Which was, until the last few weeks, carved in stone on the “To Do” list.)

    And the JSA seems to be a perfect microcosm of Japanese society itself, – we won’t accept infiltration – er, immigration even if it means our own extinction. – Aren’t they complaining about how they can’t get Japanese recruits anymore.

    And Adamw; I agree wholeheartedly, but only ONCE!

  • Brad, this is likely a violation of Article 14. The problem (of course) is that they aren’t saying “no foreigners allowed” they are limiting the number of foreign born wrestlers. And how would you go about challenging them? It would need to be from the inside.

    I am curious, along the lines of Gilesdesign, given the number of “international” marriages, if they would include people who have say 1 (or both) Caucasian parents in the “foreign born” category – even if they were Japanese by birth or say were Korean or nationals of some other country but born in Japan (and therefore not “foreign born”).

    Anyway this sort of thing is just bad for Japan and bad for the sport…

    And I think they’d make an exception for Debito! Now that’d be a sight to behold (the goggles – they do NOTHING!!!)!

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    Hmmm… doesn’t the Sumo Kyokai have to answer to the Monbukagakushou? Maybe a little pressure there might help.

  • This is another example on how deep Japan will sink in the future in the worldwide economic scenario. By fact racism is a mental limitation for future growth, and soon Japan will be nr 3, then nr 4 economy and so on.
    As a long term resident I feel being on the Titanic.

  • I think any affected naturalized wrestler should be able to challenge this policy. It’s plainly discriminatory and for no good reason. What if they decided to ban buraku people? There would be a big uproar, and rightly so. Sadly, any low-ranking rikishi who spoke out would ruin his career for good, so the Kyokai is probably banking on that and the stables’ cooperation.

  • It’s too bad, too, because to use MLB as an example, leaving the field relatively open has only increased the level of competition and made the games that much more fun to watch.

    In my opinion, a true sports fan wants to see the best the game can offer. It’s no fun watching a watered-down version of the sport. So in addition to the inherently discriminatory nature of this decision, there is also the ridiculously unsportsmanlike aspect as well.

    Won’t be going to anymore bashos, I guess…

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    I’m really surprised to see this. Japanese sumo is by far the highest level of the sport anywhere, and just as baseball players dream of going to the US to compete with the best, sumo wrestlers want to come here. Japanese people should be taking pride in that fact — if you’re the best in Japan, you’re the best in the world.

    Major League Baseball is also the top league in the world, and any attempt to limit the number of foreign-born players on the rosters in the year 2010 would be met with open revolt by the fans. Here’s a breakdown of birthplaces of people who played baseball in the major leagues last season:

    Just 71.8% were American-born, plus 1.5% Canadian. Everybody else had to move to the US or Canada to play for their teams.

    The proportion of foreign born has increased steadily from the 1930s, when — after the Ellis Island immigration boom and before the modern worldwide popularity of baseball — over 95% of all major leaguers were American. In 1934, just 6 of 566 players were born outside of the US — one of the few years in which a rule like this one would have been satisfied, had the Sumo Kyokai people been running Major League Baseball.

    You can of course argue that no North American country is really “foreign” since there are teams in both the US and Canada, the Expos played their home games in Puerto Rico for part of a season, and many teams have held their training camps in other Caribbean countries — and if you did that, the “foreign” country with the greatest number of players in 2009 would be… Japan!

    (Note also that while baseball fans are generally interested in where a player comes from, no one cares one whit about nationality, except perhaps for mild congratulations to players who decide to make the US their permanent home and take citizenship. I don’t even think records are kept, at the league level, on what citizenships players hold.)

    Today, the major leagues want to acquire talent wherever they can find it: the best players make the team, no matter where they come from. I consider this Sumo Kyokai decision to be something akin to baseball’s disgraceful custom of barring Negro players from the majors and keeping them in their own leagues — something that lasted from 1885 until after the war. (And this was only one ethnic group being banned; in sumo, every non-Japanese athlete looking to join a stable will be competing for that one non-Japanese spot.)

    Still, in both cases, the people in charge were deliberately turning their back on talented athletes in favor of racial purity.

    Why would any Japanese sumo fan want to see the quality of their sport decline? That’s what’s going to happen if talented athletes are prevented from joining the stables because of how they were born. Drop both the citizenship requirement and the birthplace requirement now.

    — Just a point of correction when you say: “every non-Japanese athlete looking to join a stable will be competing for that one non-Japanese spot”. Actually, the way the rules are being set up, “every NJ athlete INCLUDING NATURALIZED FORMER NJ will be competing…” That’s what makes this new rule even nastier. And racist.

  • The Yomiuri article about this ( ) is a bit more detailed. It looks like the original rule was that until a stable’s one foreign wrestler retired, they weren’t allowed to admit a new one. Naturalising is not retiring, so it was a loophole. Also, since Mr Arudou isn’t foreign, he would apparently be able to join a stable with a foreign or naturalised rikishi, if he weren’t, unfortunately, too old.

    The original rule and the clarification are still bad, of course, but it does seem to close off the cases where Japanese citizens would be discriminated against based on their race, thus allowing the Sumo Kyokai to claim that they aren’t being racist. Not, admittedly, with any degree of conviction, but I don’t imagine they care about that.






    (2010年2月23日20時36分 読売新聞)

    — That’s not the way I read the headline, or the article. Nor does a native speaker friend. I would be a NJ in the eyes of the JSA regardless.

  • Mainichi op-ed on the issue:

    I take reservation with certain points, but on the whole it’s thrust isn’t all that bad.

    社説:外国人力士制限 新解釈は「勇み足」では









    毎日新聞 2010年2月26日

  • That Mainichi op-ed has got it right, especially the part about 日本国籍を認めるかどうかは法務省が決めること。正規に日本国籍を取得した日本人に対し、「外国出身」を理由に協会が差別的な扱いをすることが許されるのだろうか。This is a slap in the face to us naturalized citizens. Perhaps a letter from FRANCA is in order?

    — Yes, quite.

  • @amro. I very much disagree,

    In order to become a Spanish Citizen, unless granted by the “Law of Historic Memory” (related to Spaniards leaving Spain after the 1936 Civil War) you do have to renounce your original citizenship. (exceptions for citizens of some Ibero-American countries and The Philipines, also for historical reasons but not including Brazil as far as I know).

    The footballers’ case in Spain is nothing but a great shame, as they were granted citizenship in a couple of months, whereas people ussually have to wait for 2 years to get the whole process done. (I refer to the processing of the application, not the actual residence length before being able to aply), I suppouse funds from Real Madrid or whatever football team they played “oiled” the applications.

    Still in old good Europe, many countries don’t look at dual citizenship with keen eyes.

    — Need some links to substantiate these claims.

  • This is precisely the reason why despite having the 9th most players registered ice hockey players in the world, Japan is not good at the sport. As an American, I am barred from playing in the advanced level ice hockey league here in Miyagi just like Douglas Shukert before me. My team, with its 4 foreigners (no other team has any), in the “fun league” has won probably 60 of its last 67 games. Understandably, other teams don’t like us because we always win. I always wonder how much of the blame gets put on the foreign players though; I have heard remarks like we have too many foreigners, and foreign players are dangerous.

    I was talking to a British friend of mine, and I wondered why Japan would discriminate like this in hockey, but not in Sumo. Obviously sumo is more important, so why wouldn’t they protect it? My friend quite astutely noted that, “If they were racist in sumo, the rest of the world would find out.” Well, let’s hope they do.

    ># Matt Says:
    >February 25th, 2010 at 11:35 am
    >This is truly surprising. It is like an admission that Japan can’t compete with the rest of >the world. Rather than elevate the level of play found in sumo they would prefer to keep it at >a level that the Japanese can compete in- this is the only reason I can see behind this type >of rule. Hey Japan, why not also create your own winter olympics for Japanese only- you’ll be >sure to win some medals then.
    >Amazing that the laws of this land can allow for such a thing.

  • I’m torn.

    I came to Japan six years ago and my love for sumo is on of the reasons I’m still here. I participate weekly in an amateur sumo club in my area with welcoming, friendly young men. I have a profound respect for the skill, technique, and dedication required of sumo rikishi. I watch sumo every day of a hon-basho. It is highly unfortunate for me and sports fans the world over that such an exciting game has to be managed by such narrowminded, xenophonic simpletons.

    In the last month, they have taken out the greatest and most exciting yokozuna there ever was, and now they’re supplimenting an immoral, illegal, prejudice policy of one foreign per stable, to one “foreign born” rikishi per stable.

    My question is for Debito and everyone else reading. What can I do? Assuming that abandoning my passion for the sport is implausible, what can a diehard lover of the game do to show my discontent? Of course I could boycott JSA products and events, but in doing so I’m forced to refrain from enjoying one of the forms of entertainment I love most. What can be done to move this associate out of the sakoku era mentality, so that this wonderful sport could be enjoyed by many at a higher level of quality vis-a-vis stronger rikishi and better competition, and enjoyed by people from around the world and not just age 60-plus Japanese?

  • limboinjapan says:

    Please forgive me for saying so – but isnt this an example of Japanese racial discrimination?

    Not counting a Japanese person as Japanese because he was born somewhere else is the epitome of racism,nobody can deny that.

    What if a Japanese citizen were to be born in a foreign country.
    Are they counted as foreign-born or Japanese?
    Japanese citizen however still not considered Japanese?

    That is exactly why I’d never take out citizenship here.
    Unlike my country which embraces people who adopt citizenship there, foreign-born nationals, with Japanese citizenship or not, will always be seen as outsiders here.
    I haven’t seen much change in the 16 years I have been here and don’t expect it too in my lifetime.

    The JSA is in effect saying that it doesn’t recognize the process of naturalization as applied by the Ministry of Justice. Once a person becomes Japanese, it is discriminatory to classify him as an ex-Mongolian. This regulation should be challenged in the courts.

    “You get the impression it is a severe measure but if the brakes are not applied somewhere, there will be more and more stables overrun with foreign wrestlers, so it can’t be helped, shoganai ne…” said the stablemaster.
    A microcosm for Japan in general. Time for MLB, FA,FIFA,Rugby etc to apply the same rule for Japaneses then.

    Apart from the inflammatory language by this stablemaster, I don’t see what the problem is in having as many foreign-born rikishi as are interested in the sport.
    What problems have they caused so far? A couple of Russians smoked some dope, a Mongolian had a bad-boy character… but all the big problems in sumo – the hazings, beatings and deaths- have been caused by Japanese-born stablemasters and their Japanese-born followers. Looks like they’ve just solved a problem that wasn’t there.

    This is Japan in 2010 – racism can’t be helped! Now lets look at all the foreigners representing Japan in the winter olympics and get rid of them too. Disregard citizenship since it means nothing here, if you aren’t 100% master-race Japanese DNA you don’t get in!

    There was no quality of sumo,the quality and techniques has been brought by Mongolians…
    Lets start a rival gaijin sumo association/competition and finally kill off the JSA!
    If I’m not mistaken, thre is a World Sumo League already. It be intersting to see the JSA take on the World Sumo League in a once a year Basho

    The JSA’s once cherished dream of having sumo in the Olympics is now only a pipe dream……

  • Maybe they are affraid the gaijin Sumos will do this:

    BBC NEWS Saturday, 6 March 2010
    Sumo wrestler steals cash machine from Moscow shop
    A man believed to be a sumo wrestler ripped out a cash machine weighing 90kg (200lb) and made off with it on his shoulders, police in Moscow report.
    The suspect and an accomplice were arrested after being stopped in a BMW with tinted windows which they were driving without number-plates.
    The machine containing 25,320 roubles ($850, £560) was found in the car.
    Police say the accomplice tried to take the blame for the robbery, saying he had misled his sumo-wrestler friend.
    They were alerted to the incident by a saleswoman, who said the suspects had walked into her shop in northern Moscow at 0600 (0300 GMT) and begun ripping out the electronic payment machine without a word.
    When she tried to protest, one of the suspects allegedly yelled at her: “Be quiet if you know what’s good for you!”
    The frightened woman waited until the two men had left before phoning police, who dispatched two officers to Marshal Fedorenko Street where they blocked the BMW.
    The man who allegedly carried the cash machine said he was a “professional sumo wrestler”.
    “The second rascal says it is his fault entirely and makes out that he misled his sumo-friend, telling him he was taking away his own machine,” Moscow police’s press service added.
    Police said both suspects were from a “neighbouring country” but were registered as living in the Moscow area.

    — Boy I’d better not rob a bank and claim I’m a journalist, then!

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