Who’s That Rikishi #13: Nishikigi Tetsuya

NishikigiAge: 27
Birth Name: Tetsuya Kumagai
Home Town: Morioka, Japan
Stable: Isenoumi
Highest Rank: Maegashira 6

Tetsuya Kumagai was born in 1990 in the idyllic town of Morioka, Iwata Prefecture. Inspired by fellow Iwata born rikishi Yotsuguruma, Tetsuya joined Isenoumi Beya after graduating from high school. In 2006 he made his maezumo professional debut at the Haru Basho alongside fellow future Makuuchi stars Tochinoshin and Shohozan. Progress was slow but steady for Tetsuya, who reached the third highest division of Makushita at the 2010 Hatsu Basho. However, he was unable to handle the increase in competition and found himself back in Sandanme one tournament later. His second attempt at holding onto a Makushita went much better, but it marked something of a plateau for the young Tetsuya, who spent the next five years in Makushita, unable to put together a good enough run to get him to Juryo. It was during this time that he adopted the shikona of Nishikigi, becoming the first rikishi in one hundred and forty-four years to fight under this name.

While Nishikigi’s time in Makushita may have been arduous, it was not fruitless. At the 2010 November tournament, he nearly won his first championship in a multi-man playoff and took home the Makushita Yusho two years later at the 2012 Kyushu Basho. Nishikigi failed to carry the momentum of winning a championship forward and recorded only three wins at the following Basho, curtailing his chances of promotion to Juryo. After another two years of mediocre performances, he finally earned a spot in the Juryo Division for May 2015 after going 5-2 in four consecutive Basho. Nishikigi’s time in Juryo was drastically shorter than his Makushita stint, and one year later he made his top division debut. While his first showing in Makuuchi wasn’t stellar, he quickly got his sumo in gear, and by the 2016 Kyushu Basho, he reached a career-high rank of Maegashira 6. His new rank proved too much for the Iwata born rikishi to handle, and he recorded a terrible 4-11 record at Kyushu. This poor performance marked the beginning of a major nosedive down the banzuke, and by May Nishikigi was once more in Juryo.

Determined to get back into Makuuchi, Nishikigi recorded ten wins and clinched the 2017 Natsu Juryo Yusho in a senshuraku match against Aminishiki to punch his ticket back to the top division. Since returning to Makuuchi in July, Nishikigi has managed to stay in the top division despite being at risk of demotion several times in 2017-18. Nishikigi is well known for his severely limited sight, which requires him to wear glasses whenever he isn’t competing or practicing. His eyesight is so poor that he can’t even see the first row of fans while on the dohyo, a limitation Nishikigi has turned into an advantage, as he never feels nervous about competing in front of soldout crowds. A competent oshi-sumo fighter, Nishikigi employs strong yori-kiri and oshi dashi techniques to win his bouts.

Kyokutaisei (left) vs. Nishikigi (right), Hatsu Basho, 2018.


6 thoughts on “Who’s That Rikishi #13: Nishikigi Tetsuya

  1. He doesn’t use contacts because he is panicked about anything going into his eyes (I totally understand that. I have a hard time even using eye drops).

    He is known as “Nishikigi Mama”, as he is very protective of other rikishi’s health. In Jungyo, when the sekitori are all gathered on or around the dohyo, you can often see Nishikigi hovering over any fallen rikishi, offering towels and checking health. In general he is considered one of the kindest guys in professional sumo.

    • I may be the only person who thinks of Samurai Champloo whenever I see him. There’s an episode where a guy is looking for Jin (a samurai with glasses) but keeps attacking these innocent people who wear glasses…one reminds me of Nishikigi…even without glasses.

    • I can’t stand the idea of contacts either. I freak out whenever there’s anything in my eye such that I can’t imagine I could spend all day with a piece of plastic floating on it. Even if you don’t notice it while it’s there, I would be forced to notice it whenever I had to change them, and it just really really freaks me out.

      As to Nishikigi, I was quite surprised when he rose through Juryo made Makuuchi and am rather surprised he’s stayed around as long as he has. Given how long he took to make Juryo, I expected him to be more like, say, Dewahayate.

      • That reminds me that I thought pretty much the same thing about Kitataiki back in 2007, who (like Nishikigi) also only made it to juryo shortly before turning 25. There’s no way anyone could have convinced me that that guy would manage to stay sekitori for 10 years.