Wakaichiro Retires From Sumo

A Sharp Suit and a Smile That Can Light Up a Room

Early Monday, Japan time, the Musashigawa heya announced that Texas rikishi Wakaichiro had retired in the prior week. This will come as a great disappointment to sumo fans around the world, who has been following is journey from novice to mid-level competitor.

For his fans, we are going to miss reports of his matches and occasional video clips that were snuck out on twitter and YouTube. Following his retirement, reports say that he has left Japan for the time being, and has returned to the United States to plan the next stage of his life. Along with all of his followers, we wish Mr Young nothing but the best of luck in the next stage of his life. Team Tachiai are grateful for the chance to use him as a vehicle to learn more about the life of a rikishi who starts out from nothing, and works his way into the world of sumo.

Wakaichiro himself had stated at the beginning of his adventure in the world of sumo, that he would give it a few years and see if he could make something of himself, and if not he would end his adventure with a winning record (he finished Hatsu 5-2) and his head held high. True to his word, he did exactly that. Fans will wonder about the timing of his retirement, just before the workup for Osaka. I can share that he has been nursing a set of chronic injuries, and it was becoming clear to him that he was not going to be able to treat them to the point of recovery, and the limitations those injuries placed on his sumo would prevent him from reaching the top ranks of the sport.

What’s next for Mr Young? Time will tell. He’s a young man with a lot of courage, charisma and drive. His efforts in the world of sumo will do wonders for his future, as his origin story now includes a very rare suite of experiences and accomplishments. His years in sumo will likely have imparted with drive, courage and perseverance in the face of physical and mental adversity. I predict good things for him.

26 thoughts on “Wakaichiro Retires From Sumo

    • Tachiai reports many aspects of the sumo world for English speakers. And many of us here in the USA have followed our countrymen and their careers eagerly. I thank Tachiai.org for their continued excellent service. They do not cater to anyone specifically and shouldn’t as reasonable journalists. You might not care about a report but many others do. I’ll add that watching the lower divisions gives greater understanding of sumo and is a very educational experience. Those who only watch the top division or two never gain a full understanding of Japanese sumo, imho. Wakaichiro did “real” sumo and anyone who thinks otherwise is abysmally ignorant of what it takes to be rikishi. I eagerly watched his career and am sad to see him go but it is understandable. I look forward to seeing what’s next for the Young man!

    • How interesting you think we care that you don’t care — and by that I mean, no one cares and you should vent your sad little spleen away from your keyboard next time, kitten.

    • You should read the main man John Gunning’s piece about it too then – because he goes into some detail about why it’s currently and historically relevant that sumo is now without an American participant: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2020/02/19/sumo/sumo-without-american-rikishi-wakaichiro-retires#.Xk0ndS2Q3fY

      It’s also worth pointing out: real sumo is keiko, it’s jungyo, it’s honbasho, it’s jonokuchi to makuuchi – all of it is real sumo. Real sumo is a lot more than a couple Yokozuna in the musubi-no-ichiban on senshuraku however big of a part of the experience that may be – and I definitely encourage any fan to dig deeper because you will be richly rewarded. 🙂

  1. This will come as a great disappointment to sumo fans around the world

    Only to his fans really – mostly US fans who supported him as their compatriot, or “westerners” with a broader sense of “compatriot”. And even then, given how much tape he used this early on, one can temper the disappointment with an argument like “I guess it’s not too surprising in hindsight”.

    • Actually, you might be fairly amazed at how popular he was both in Japan and in the rest of the world. I was always surprised that out in Tokyo, some random person would call out “Wakaichiro!” or come talk to him.

      Different is always interesting among us humans. A rikishi with Japanese and American ancestry is different. Add to that he is a genuinely nice and personable individual, and he was quite the attention magnet. In fact there may have been episodes where there were worries about the amount of attention he attached. Lower ranked rikishi are supposed to be a bit of a background fog that is always in motion and always struggling. But Wakaichiro seemed to have an outsized following.

      I would say that fans will miss him, much more than you would think for a Sandanme ranked rikishi.

      • Still, we’re talking popularity among devoted enthusiasts. Most sumo followers barely know what Sandanme even is, I would assume.

        Not to disrespect the guy though, he did his best.

        • If what you say is true then they have a partial view of what sumo is, at best. In any sport, how the participants get to where they are is significant. A fan who cares nothing about the lower divisions is a tepid fan. Sure, enjoy sumo as you will but disparaging a lower divisions rikishi out of ignorance is like insulting a college football player because he isn’t in the NFL. It’s unfair and unreasonable.

          • The comment was perfectly accurate though. The vast majority of people who watch sumo on TV (Japanese and foreigners alike) would struggle to name more than couple of current juryo rikishi, let alone anyone ranked even lower.

            • Yes. And Tachiai tries to straddle that line and provide valuable content for both sets of fans. Some content may be TMI or too in the weeds while other content may not dive deep enough…but we’ll try our best to bring relevant content to everyone. :)

            • Ichiro Young’s entry into sumo presented Tachiai with a unique opportunity to let our readers follow a rikishi from the start. I understand that quite a few of our readers could care less about someone in the lower ranks. But for some sumo fans (such as myself) understanding the campaign to enter sumo and rise through the ranks is an important part of appreciating the sport.

              The fact that Ichiro grew up for the most part in the US made him easy to relate to for the bulk of our readers. They shared a common background, and I would guess at least a few of them wondered what it would have been like to try to make it in professional sumo.

              For myself, the subject started as a curiosity – could someone with solid US football experience translate that into sumo? Then I had the good fortune to meet and befriend Ichiro Young, and his journey became a look into just how challenging it is to even reach and hold Sandanme rank. Sure, most sumo fans never really pay any attention to that. But the good news that until Andy is declared supreme sovereign of Terra, reading Tachiai is still optional.

              But the challenges of a physically large, strong, mentally disciplined young man to compete and stay healthy genuinely reflects what an amazing achievement it is to reach the salaried ranks. I am grateful that Mr Young let us come along for the ride, and at times peek into his efforts in the world of sumo.

  2. Any chance someone from the Tachiai team has reached out for an interview? The American fans at least would eat it up, and it might be instructive to see his take on the sumo experience at that level.

    • I am quite sure we can talk to him some point soon. But with the Haru banzuke this weekend, it may happen after Osaka is complete.

  3. an eloquent homage for such a deserving young man
    he is wise to see the writing on the wall soon enough to steer away from further injury

    how different the rest of his life will be, now with sumo experience behind his belt
    may the world be his oyster

    many thanks bruce
    your best piece yet, a pretty high bar

  4. Although, I didn’t know the young man personally, it was indeed an honor to watch Wakaichiro grow these last few years! The kid gave it his all…and what more can you asked for?

    I feel it was his destiny to join Musashigawa Beya, and I’m sure that oyakata Musashigawa (and the coaches) taught him as well as he could. To persevere, to take the pounding, to face guys much bigger than he, to experience TRUE ozumo in a way that I can only dream of…WOW, what a trip! Thanks Wakaichiro for the thrills, spills & chills!

    As soon as he writes his tell-all autobiographical account of his sumo life — I’ll be the first in line to BUY it!

    And I would like to give a SPECIAL shout-out to Tachiai.org for introducing me to Wakaichiro, and providing great video clips of his Texan-flavored sumo. Again, I wish him the best of a good life!

  5. Best wishes to him! I’ll miss hearing about him, but I think it makes sense for him to take care of his injuries and go see what else the world holds for him. He seems like a genuinely nice guy.

  6. I can’t say I saw this coming as I haven’t followed him that closely, but he clearly was wearing a lot of bandages that last year. It is propably a wise decision. I know little about the nature of his injuries, but after a good 3 years in sumo he lately had established himself in Sandanme(he would probably have been back to around his previous career high). But he is also already 21.5, There surely are latebloomers, but even assuming health and an optimistic estimate, simply by watching his sumo, he was at least 2 years removed from maybe getting near juryo.
    If he has other plans for his life, but sumo, this is just the right time to move to the next stage. He ist still young and the most important lesson, how to make a proper chanko, I’m sure he learned for life ;)

  7. Cheering for Wakaichiro from a “sneaked” A North box seat at the Kokugikan was a reliable treat on visits to Tokyo. He’s a lovely young man and I wish him good luck in all his future endeavors.


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