As Liam reported, Kisenosato has finally put an end to the drama and announced his retirement. Herouth explained how we got here and Bruce did a great job pointing out why this was what needed to be done. Minutes before the announcement came down, I had retweeted survey results from Sponichi that 78% of respondents thought he should retire, belying the idea that he had a groundswell of fan supporting the idea that he should continue. We could hear it in the crowds’ reaction to each of his three losses.
The great thing is, that drama is over now. Kisenosato will continue his sumo career as coach, then as head of his own stable of wrestlers. And there really was no other way forward. If he had lost again, the howls would grow along with the discomfort of the Sumo Kyokai and Yokozuna Deliberation Council. If he won, the inevitable may be delayed by a day or two. But with more wins, or some dream (fantasy) comeback kachi-koshi record, surely questions would arise about their legitimacy given his recent poor results. Perhaps this is where the idea of yaocho, that it’s all fixed, can finally be put to bed.
The second thing that I hope comes out of this is a real reform within stables regarding the treatment of wrestlers’ injuries, if it hasn’t started to happen already. We’ve seen some chronic injuries rested, but others continue to come back, tournament after tournament, only to finish with 1, 2, or at max 4 wins and never really healing completely…I’m looking at you Ikioi…not to mention the entire Ozeki corps. It would be a slow change but hopefully the days are over where a shattered arm would be patched up with an expectation of continuing with keiko bright and early the next morning.
I look forward to seeing Kisenosato wearing a blue jumpsuit of the NSK during future basho, in a hakama and presiding over mono-ii as shinpan, or in jeans, laughing with fans during jungyo in Ibaraki as he guides his own deshi through their own careers. Undoubtedly, he’s now free from the pressure to perform that has been hanging over his every appearance over the past year.
And a final note: Kisenosato owes Nishikigi a beer. Odds of a second kinboshi have now surely plummeted. If Nishikigi gets a kinboshi against Hakuho this tournament, I’ll eat my hat — with a special wasabi marinade — during the next podcast.
I wish Kisenosato well as he begins the next chapter of his sumo career as Araiso oyakata (荒磯親方).