Who’s That Rikishi #12: Ichinojo Takashi

Age: 24
Birth Name: Altankhuyag Ichinnorow
Home Town: Arkhangai, Mongolia
Stable: Minato
Highest Rank: Sekiwake

While most sumo fans like to imagine the boulder-sized Ichinojo rolling down a mountain and onto the dohyo to do sumo, the truth is that he was born on the beautiful plains of Arkhangai province, Mongolia. While far from the first Mongolian to enter Japan’s national sport, he was the first of his countrymen from a nomadic clan to join sumo. As a boy, he took part in traditional Mongolian wrestling called Bokh, going so far as to win his provinces Bokh championship when he was 14 years old. Moving to Japan for high school, Ichinojo initially practiced Judo until the school’s sumo coach convinced him to join his team. The young Mongolian went on to win five titles and the rank of amateur Yokozuna. His success caught the attention of Minato Beya, who recruited Ichinojo in 2013, making him their one allotted foreign-born rikishi. Due to his amateur Yokozuna title, Ichinojo was allowed to skip the bottom two divisions and debut in Makushita, making him the second foreign-born rikishi to do so. Upon debuting he automatically became the highest ranked member of his stable, as none of his stablemates were ranked higher than Sandanme. Ichinojo’s first official tournament in January 2014 was a huge success and marked the beginning of a meteoric rise up the banzuke for the young Boulder.

By May of that same year, he burst into the Juryo Division, having only lost two bouts in his career thus far. Despite the drastic increase in competition, Ichinojo held his own in Juryo and won the division Yusho in a four-way playoff. He nearly captured his second consecutive Juryo Yusho at the following Nagoya Basho, but fell to Tochinoshin in a playoff bout. Nevertheless, his 13-2 record was more than enough to warrant a promotion, and in September he made his Makuuchi debut at the rank of Maegashira 10. Like previous Honbasho, Ichinojo mowed through the competition, collecting six straight wins until a Day 7 loss to Ikioi. This turned out to be just a minor set back for the young Mongolian, who quickly returned to his winning ways. As the tournament progressed, Ichinojo began facing stronger opponents much higher up on the banzuke. However, even they couldn’t stop him. Having defeated both Ozeki Kisenosato and Goeido and Yokozuna Kakuryu, Ichinojo was matched up with Hakuho on Day 14, but he was unable to beat the Boss. Finishing in second place with a record of 13-2, Ichinojo was awarded both the fighting spirit and outstanding performance special prizes, and his rank was elevated all the way to Sekiwake for the following tournament.

Perhaps a symptom of the increased media attention and fanfare following his success in September, Ichinojo developed a bad case of shingles during the lead up to the 2014 Kyushu Basho. Unable to practice for much of the inter-Basho period, he failed to replicate the impressive numbers he had posted at Aki but managed to hold on to his Sekiwake rank with an 8-7 record. He was not so lucky at the 2015 Hatsu Basho. Recording only six wins, the young Boulder dropped out of San’yaku. An impressive showing in March and May, including a kinboshi victory over Harumafuji, resulted in Ichinojo regaining his Sekiwake rank for the 2015 Nagoya Basho. This tournament would prove disastrous for the Mongolian Rikishi, and he finished with a record of 4-11 and once again joined the Maegashira rank and fillers. Having firmly established himself as a Makuuchi mainstay, Ichinojo spent much of 2016 alternating between winning and losing records, until a herniated disk forced him to miss the Aki Basho. This injury, most likely a symptom of his ballooning mass, prompted the nearly 500 pound Mongolian rikishi to begin reducing his weight. Upon returning, the much lighter Ichinojo picked up right where he left off and continued flip-flopping between kachi koshi and make koshi. At the 2017 Kyushu Basho, Ichinojo scored double-digit wins for the first time in well over a year, when he finished the tournament with a 10-5 record and a gold star victory over Kisenosato. Building on his Bokh wrestling background, Ichinojo is a fierce belt wrestler, and his favorite grip is a right hand inside, left hand outside migi-yotsu. His preferred winning maneuver is the yorikiri forceout.

Ichinojo (left) vs. Ikioi (right), Aki Basho, 2017.


30 thoughts on “Who’s That Rikishi #12: Ichinojo Takashi

  1. I was hoping you’d uncover what his favorite flavor of ice cream was. :)

    Poor kid, shingles is one of the most miserable and painful things possible. Recuperating in a house full of guys with little privacy must be stressful too.

  2. Ichinojo always will be a big mystery to me. How high could he have risen had he stayed at a manageable weight? How much are his back issues hampering him, at times making him seem drowsy on the dohyo? Is the fact that he’s at an unheralded stable, with few challenging rikishi to train with, and with an oyakata who might not be the best at training rikishi, holding him back? Many of these questions may well be unanswerable.

    • Hard to say, Akebono managed to do fine after his herniated disc back in 98, but he was also able to take off for 3 basho to recover. Ichinojo doesn’t have that luxury as a mere maegashira. He was also quite a bit taller, so able to carry over 200 kg of weight better than Ichinojo.

      I also think that he may be suffering from a lack of high quality training partners, and could stand to learn some new techniques in order to deal better with the slap-happy tadpole squad.

      I’ve had a soft spot for the Big Castle since running across some of his CM videos on youtube. I feel his struggle in trying to act not in your native language.

        • He seems like the antithesis of Asashoryu, quiet and unassuming. It’s a shame he doesn’t have a blog or instagram afaik, maybe the extra fan support would help with his confidence levels.

      • Interview:

        Q: How do you feel about your first appearance in a commercial?
        A: It was my first time so I was nervous, but I’m happy to be on TV.

        Q: What was the part that was most difficult for you?
        A: My line: “dodekai…”, “dodekai youna… dodeka”… “dodekai youna, dodekakunai youna”… that was hard.

        [I didn’t quite catch his answer about the kid actor]

        Q: When have you started to grow so big?
        A: I started growing big since I was a boy… When I entered high school, I would eat eight bowls of rice and five bowls of chanko nabe.

        Q: How much Ramen can you eat?
        A: At one time? About 7 bowls.

        Q: What do you want to say to the people watching this?
        A: Please eat the new “Dodekai Ramen”!

        • 7 bowls plus kaedama in each bowl! So effectively 14 bowls. The man is a yokozuna at the dinner table.

          • Heh, I missed the kaedama part. My kikitori is definitely off… Good grief. I wonder how many cows are needed to support his ice cream habit.

          • I wish I could invite him to go out to eat with me here. The giant American portion sizes mean I can’t ever finish anything, and he could have all the leftovers!

    • I’m also puzzled by him. He’s one of the few rikishi I would really like to have a chat with to try and suss what’s going on under that chon-mage.

      By the way, he does degeiko religiously. I think he may be one of the victims of the Jungyo schedule, which allows only a short time for degeiko. This time he practiced with Kakuryu and Takayasu. I’ll wait for honbasho to see how much good that did him, as his weight is bound to hurt him despite the good practice mates.

  3. Thank u for a brilliant article on our favourite boulder! Was gobsmacked he’s only 24! Shingles very nasty, my father still recovering (he’s 78!) I hope Ichinojo puts in another brilliant basho 🙏👍

  4. I had also forgotten he was quite so young! Plenty of time to rise up the banzuke and develop that consistency

  5. When I first started watching sumo again, Ichinojo was an instant favorite. As I tell my friends at work, he has the face of a 75-year old grandmother and the physical gifts of Ferdinand the Bull. It’s sad that he got derailed, and I do agree that it probably has a lot to do with being “lonely” in his heya. More training partners, less pressure!

  6. His rivalry with Tochinoshin is one of my favorites. If they’re scheduled to battle, I watch. Both have injury issues, which have been apparent in a few of their latest bouts, but they bring out the best in each other.

  7. Ichinojo is… I wouldn’t say he’s a Tachiai favourite, exactly, but he’s certainly one of the rikishi whose performance is most likely to be commented on! When he’s on his sumo, moving forward and giving the bout his all, he’s great. But all too often, he’s passive and slow, and when he’s pushed back to the tawara, he just steps out rather than brace against the bales and fight to the last moment. I’ve speculated before that this tendancy to give up is the result of fear of injury. For someone of Ichinojo’s size, a fall from the dohyo could be very damaging.

    • My current theory is that this is due to his Bokh training. People usually revert to the things they know best under pressure. In Bokh, there is no tawara and no “out”.

  8. I like him a lot. Im no expert but i like his slow motions. Its seems like a bizarre dream when he pushes other rikishi from the dohyo seemingly effortless.

    in my mind he is a soft, giant stealth man, who can sneak everywhere without making a sound. Just like me when i stole the choclate out of the forbidden drawer.

  9. Ichi is awesome; my favorite sekitori! Its hard to cheer for him but…I mean…Just look the guy…He is like a panda bear. Love him.

  10. Ichi has the size,strength and skills to go all the way and is a genuinely good guy, All he needs is that fire in the belly. I don’t know if any of you played World of Warcraft, but there was one quest where you had to team with an enormous ogre who wanted to solve everything through love, peace and dancing instead of beating everyone to a pulp. That’s Ichinojo.

  11. ichinojo is one of precious few capable to reach yokozuna (legitimately)
    too heavy, yes, but that can change

    thanks for the profile
    somewhat surprised that there is not mention of his brilliant defeat of the Champ, and their subsequent bout when hakuho won, then delivered an extra slap to ichi’s face after

    that slap, perhaps well intended, was the worst move ever made by hakuho, much worse than the silly attempt to call his own matta (even if likely a strategy to take some attention from the harumafuji debacle, and somewhat effective, still pretty silly)

    i think that slap quelled too much ichinojo’s fire, for the following several basho
    seems like he’s sorted through it and is back in the saddle

    i consider him second only to hakuho as a fighter
    none of us can know if his losses are more from the overweight/bad back or the required fixed bouts; i see the deficient coaching as the third challenge he must also compensate for to show his best

    great site, beautiful
    many thanks


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