Somewhat lost in the sumo news cycle this past week was the announcement of the retirement of popular former sekitori – and erstwhile Tachiai t-shirt wearer (via The Japan Times) – Asahisho of Tomozuna (originally Oshima) beya. His sixteen year career in sumo led him to a peak of Maegashira 11. Like many folks who entered sumo fandom at a similar time as myself, I actually discovered him as the low-ranking senpai to a disillusioned Kyokutaisei in the film ‘A Normal Life.’ Asahisho was well known throughout the sport as an affable and hilarious character and gregarious personality. What struck me while watching that film was the fact that if not for his good nature, perhaps another eventual top division rikishi-to-be might never have made it. In hindsight, it is a good testament to the stable, their hard work and friendship that they both did.
— 日本相撲協会公式 (@sumokyokai) June 11, 2021
Of course, it’s a bit remiss to boil down a cool guy’s career to a cameo in an indie film loved mostly by hardcore devotees of the sport. John Gunning’s column from a few years back in the Japan Times goes far more in depth, as least as far as his personality and contribution to the sumo-as-entertainment landscape is concerned. Reading columns like these, with hindsight, makes me rue the social media ban even more, as we miss the opportunities to see little bits of day-to-day humour that special characters can contribute to what is a difficult daily grind.
Asahisho was recruited into the famed Oshima stable – a stable run by the former Ozeki Asahikuni and which produced big names such as, to name just a few, the Yokozuna Asahifuji (now influential oyakata Isegahama), the first Mongolian into the sport Kyokushuzan, the current Tatsunami-oyataka and former Sekiwake Asahiyutaka, and of course, the stablemaster to whom Asahisho has reported for the past several years, Tomozuna-oyakata, the former yusho-winner Kyokutenho.
Asahisho was one of the former Oshima-oyakata’s final products to reach the top division, coming shortly before his retirement and the stable’s transition through its merger with Tomozuna-beya and new leadership under Kyokutenho. While the latter years added the likes of long-time makuuchi man Kaisei to his daily training alongside Kyokushuho and Kyokutaisei, Asahisho never made it back to the top division after the stable’s change of leadership. Injuries and loss of form meant that after several years in Juryo, he dropped to Makushita where he spent the last four years languishing. He does, however, retire with winning records against san’yaku veterans Miyabiyama, Yoshikaze and Wakanosato, all of whom he now joins as an elder of the Kyokai, and all of whom he beat in his sole kachi-koshi basho in the top division (Kyushu 2012).
It’s likely the popular pusher-thruster will be more remembered for his non-sumo activity. However, though he was a noted member of a long line of “salt shakers” (see the video of this loss to Ishiura as a thoroughly impressive example, hat tip to YouTube’s Hokkaikochan) – a mantle these days taken up by ichimon-mate Terutsuyoshi, many fans around the internet remember his dame-oshi on a young and controversial Takagenji in a Juryo match that perhaps set the then ill-tempered prodigy straight after the youngster had made a name for himself with a string of disrespectful appearances in the second division (a comment noted both within Sumo Forum discussion of his retirement as well as his wikipedia page).
While that was to be one of the final acts of Asahisho’s sekitori career, his death metal appearance as a guitar player with Gagamaru, Tenkaiho and Toyonoshima in support of the “Move Band” fitness tracker still stands as one of the most iconic sumo brand partnerships of the decade (if not all-time!). No doubt he’ll be on screens and in the commentary booth plenty over the coming years (and it would be no surprise at all to see him team up again with the popular Tenkaiho, a longtime rival, as a host of the Kyokai’s YouTube features), but now that all four members of sumo’s “Move Band” are now retired, perhaps they can get the band back together!
Tachiai congratulates Kiriyama-oyakata on a notable career and looks forward to both seeing his impact on his stable’s recruits and hearing him in the broadcast booth!