According to the NHK, the news everyone was expecting but nobody wanted to hear has broken: Yokozuna Kisenosato will retire. This is a very sad day for sumo, as is any day that one of its grand champions and longtime stars steps away from competition. However, I’m sure many will agree that this development has been a long time coming.
For those who have only seen Kisenosato compete in the last few basho, what you saw was only the ghost of a man who lived and breathed this incredible sport. Yet for much of his seventeen-year career, Kisenosato was an incredibly successful athlete, as well as one of the sports most dedicated proponents. Kisenosatos ascension to Yokozuna was an incredible celebration for a nation looking for a champion of their own, and the fact that his time at the top was so short makes writing this article that much harder. So too, was watching the shell of this very same man trying in vain to claw his way back to active duty after his debilitating injury. Much has been said about Kisenosato and how he should have called it quits long ago and how he’s bringing disgrace to the rank. But I can’t really fault him for trying everything in his power to hold on to his career, his life’s work, until the very last, even when everyone else could see the writing on the wall.
Reason has finally prevailed though, and now Kisenosato can look towards the next chapter of his life. He can take what he’s learned and pass it on to the next generation. And if his future disciples show even the slightest bit of skill, determination, and dignity of their Oyakata, then the sport will be better for it.