Sumo wrestling's top star, who is at the center of a storm of criticism over bad conduct, will return to his native Mongolia to receive treatment for a stress disorder, sumo officials said yesterday.
Asashoryu, who holds the sport's highest rank of grand champion, was expected to leave Tokyo as early as today after receiving approval from the Japan Sumo Association.
The sumo's star's meltdown has been a major story in Japan since it was revealed that he had secretly returned to Mongolia after skipping an official exhibition tour in Japan.
Asashoryu said he couldn't wrestle because of injuries, but was videotaped playing soccer in Ulan Bator.
He was slapped last month with a two-tournament ban and a pay cut -- one of the harshest punishments ever meted out to a grand champion.
His trainer said the wrestler was so devastated that he holed himself up in his room and has shown signs of a stress disorder.
Asashoryu's trip home was approved with the proviso that he seek treatment.
There are few titles as lofty -- or taken more seriously by the Japanese -- as grand champion.
Grand champions are expected to wear kimono when they appear in public, to keep their hair in a well-oiled topknot and to avoid any kind of controversy. But grand champions -- called yokozuna -- are expected to set an even more demanding example of both humility and devotion to the sport.