Chiyonofuji Dead at 61

FUKUOKA, JAPAN – NOV 1983: Chiyonofuji Mitsugu, born as Akimoto Mitsugu, appears in a ceremony before a match during the 1983 Kyushu Basho sumo wrestling tournament held in November 1983 at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center in Fukuoka, Japan. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Chiyonofuji

This one really surprised me the other day. Chiyonofuji was very young and was unique among sumo wrestlers in that he never put on the massive weight that so many do. The dude was cut. I hope Getty and David Madison don’t get mad at me for using their picture but it really shows off his physique.

When it comes to King of the Hill, the bigger guy is harder to knock off. Putting on weight is thus a cheap way to compete when one is of average skill or average height. Chiyonofuji’s success is conclusive proof that he was far above average skill. His superior balance and power, along with his aggressiveness, proved unstoppable for 31 championships over his 10+ year reign.

I saw a crazy stat that 64% of Japanese TVs were tuned in to watch him beat Kitanoumi, another sumo giant we lost this year.

4 thoughts on “Chiyonofuji Dead at 61

  1. This guy was amazing to watch, and was the first real Sumo star that I took notice of during my year in Japan. Having just gotten back into the sport this year, it leaves me saddened to know that cancer took him. I have to wonder if he took trips to his home town of Fukushima that injured his body.

    Wacky random thought – Chiyonofuji’s passing draws a sharp contracts (at least in my mind) with Kisenosato’s campaign to reach Yokozuna. Chiyonofuji’s record looks very strong in comparison.

    • I wish I’d known about and followed sumo back then. Instead, I was watching WWF; I loved Andre the Giant. It wasn’t until Akebono that I knew sumo existed, and it was so much better than the fake WWF story lines.

      Seeing the news play all of that great footage of Chiyonofuji (much better quality than what’s on YouTube), it reminded me of how the NFL has those great narrated “NFL films” to help promote the history and legacy of their game; I wish the Sumo Kyokai would collaborate with the NHK and put out documentaries on old basho like that. I think it helps keep people interested in football when their team is crap (like the Redskins). All those videos about the rivalry with the Cowboys and the championship seasons keep the faithful indoctrinated. That could be done with sumo.

      • I hear you on WWF! I was in the military and spent a year at Iwakuni down in Yamaguchi Prefecture. It’s a joint base with USMC air wing a JMSDF search and rescue. In short I stumbled across Sumo and was fascinated by how much took place before the Tachiai.

        You are so dead on with borrowing several pages from the NFL and applying them to Sumo. I honestly think that the Sumo controlling body could greatly expand the reach and appeal of the sport world wide. Now wether then want to do that is a very good question. I would assume that like any Japanese business, there is a very conservative streak that runs through the heart of it. That is one of the great things I admire about Japan – they do stick to tradition and culture, even at some expense of greater benefit in order to keep things Japanese. But yeah, how wonderful would it be to have NFL style Sumo historical highlights for all of the great years that have lead to the current day.

        • It’s good to hear I’m not the only one. They seem to be reaching out a little to foreigners in the lead up to the Olympics. It may have been just me, but there seemed to be a little more effort to put some stuff in English. I do hope they learn lessons from other sports, like football and soccer in how to reach out to fans.


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