Hakuho Retires, Becomes Magaki Oyakata

This evening Japan time, the news that we have been anticipating all week was made official: The 69th Yokozuna Hakuho has retired from sumo.

“The Boss” retires with the tremendous career record of 1187 wins and 247 losses as a rikishi, including a top flight record 1093 wins, 45 top division championships (plus 1 from Juryo), 6 special prizes, a kinboshi, and numerous other records. His run of 63 consecutive makuuchi victories in 2010, broken by the future Yokozuna Kisenosato, is bettered only by the legendary Yokozuna Futabayama.

Hakuho was and will remain known for, among other things, his incredible presence and aura in the dohyo, his peerless speed at the tachiai, ability to overwhelm almost any opponent of the several eras of his career with a variety of techniques, his power of motivation to find new records to break and new ways to challenge himself, his dedication to amateur sumo, his community work (especially in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami), his desire to connect sumo to global audiences, and latterly, the remarkable recruiting of new rikishi which he will bring into his coaching career.

Taking all of this into account, it is even more remarkable that Hakuho famously joined Miyagino-beya in a last ditch effort, after the oyakata took him in as a favour to groundbreaking Mongolian sekitori Kyokushuzan. Having been rejected by every other stable he reached out to, the skinny 16 year old was never regarded as a prospect of any sort, making his ascent to the very pinnacle of the sport’s centuries of history all the more remarkable.

Hakuho embraced modern medicine in a bid to prolong his career to the extent that he did, which often also brought him criticism from some within the sumo community who felt he should have retired earlier rather than taking repeated kyujo. This, combined with some cultural faux-pas which saw him in for disciplinary hearings more often than appropriate for a Yokozuna, often brought him scrutiny from those within the Association, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, and some within sumo’s wider fanbase.

We will no doubt spill more words over the coming days, weeks and months over the brilliant (and perhaps even some of the less brilliant) moments of Hakuho’s career. But let’s be clear that while he was an imperfect legend, he was a legend, an icon of his sport, and not only in the conversation for the best to ever do what he did, but it is not hyperbole to put him in the conversation for one of the greatest champions in sporting history. As mentioned in a previous post, John Gunning did a wonderful encapsulation of this in The Japan Times, and it is highly recommended as a read.

Magaki-Oyakata

There had been speculation for years over when his retirement would come, and it was accompanied by the usual announcement from the Kyokai (above). We had debated not only when he would go out, and how. Those who are interested in the Sumo Association stock exchange had debated what elder name he might take, or if he would be allowed to continue as the greatest Dai-Yokozuna had, by using the privileged one-generation ichidai toshiyori.

It felt somewhat inevitable over recent weeks and months, given the controversy surrounding Hakuho’s various activities and performances and the aforementioned blots on his copybook, that “Hakuho oyakata” would not be named among the Kyokai’s members. And so it is that Hakuho will take the Magaki name, as had been rumoured earlier in the year. As the intai has been officially recognised after the banzuke committee’s meeting, it is more than likely that he will make his final appearance on the banzuke for the Kyushu 2021 basho at Yokozuna 1 West.

The Magaki kabu has moved around over the years, but largely has belonged to the Tatsunami/Tatsunami-Isegahama/Isegahama ichimon of which Hakuho’s Miyagino-beya is a member. Upon picking up the myoseki, Hakuho moved it back into the ichimon’s possession from Tokitsukaze beya and ichimon where it had spent the last several years. Its most famous occupant until now has probably been Yokozuna Wakanohana II – who as Magaki oyakata himself, recruited the 73rd Yokozuna Terunofuji before the Yokozuna’s move to Isegahama-beya where he developed and remains today.

In terms of what happens next: Hakuho’s stablemaster and boss Miyagino-oyakata will retire next August at the mandatory retirement age of 65. It is likely that at that stage (or at some point before), Hakuho will takeover the heya as the new shisho. He may choose to rename the stable Magaki-beya, or, as has been done recently at other stables such as Tokitsukaze and Takasago, switch kabu with the outgoing shisho and assume the more prestigious Miyagino name for himself at that time. Rumours are already swirling in the press as we have previously detailed that Hakuho is looking at expensive new real estate for a blockbuster new construction project for the heya. That, combined with his prolific efforts at recruiting, will set the stage for a very eventful opening to Hakuho’s career as an elder of the Sumo Association.

Despite the fact that recruiting and prospect development are often somewhat drier subjects within the sumo world, it would appear that as with Hakuho’s career on the dohyo, the next chapter promises to be anything but quiet. Strap in folks, it’s gonna get interesting.

Congratulations to Yokozuna Hakuho, Magaki Oyakata on the most incredible of storied careers on the dohyo.

16 thoughts on “Hakuho Retires, Becomes Magaki Oyakata

  1. Great read but the Vote for Hakuho’s Elder stock was bullshite. A split vote on something that should of been a formality and not only that but with attached conditions for expected behavior? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, Sumo is LONG over due to be renovated in how it handles a lot of things.

      • I didn’t always agree with the tactic Hakuho used… Even still, to pull this on him is just stupid. IT’s about control and nothing more. I feel they fear his connections and his popularity… I could be way out in left field wrong here but honestly it’s what I feel.

    • Completely agree. And I just read the conditions on the link you provided – they are so vague – there is absolutely no objective way to determine compliance. Are these conditions permanently imposed on Hakuho or is there a sunset clause?

      Also, just recently JSA seems to have abandoned their long standing practice of granting a free, one generation elder stock to Yokozuna achieved exceptional results (unwritten mark of 20 wins). Did they have to do it just ahead of Hakuho retirement?

      Sorry to say, but this reeks of racism.

      • As far as I can tell the agreement is for the next 10 years. And yes, they basically trashed Honorary Elder stock which would of allowed Hakuho to retire under his own name much like Takanohana and others before him just before Hakuho retired. This came after the scandals of 2 Mongolian Yokozuna and the ” Violence ” they portrayed very unbecoming of sumo, which anyone who knows sumo AT ALL know how much bull that is as Sumo was always huge on hazing and abuse of lower ranking rikishi.

  2. Sumo is going to be in a much better place with Hakuho and some of his more progressive sports views in a position of power. The fact that they even had to consider him for these rights or held him under special conditions is absolutely absurd. The greatest sumo wrestler of all time, a one in a generation (if not multiple generations) talent who could have done any single combat sport and excelled but they had to take one final swing at him for daring to be not Japanese. I don’t think race plays as huge of a factor in fanbase or the day to day operation of Sumo as some people think it does but in the upper levels of the JSA? It absolutely does. They’ve resented Hakuho his entire career.

    When these old bastards in the JSA upper management are out of the picture maybe Sumo can finally modernize some. They’re actively holding the sport back with their racial and out dated views. No positive change can happen in Sumo’s handling of injuries, incidents, behavior or internal structure until these fuddy duddy’s get out of the way.

    • Totally agree.
      Moreover, Big-H, a part of being the GOAT, genuinely seems to be a nice person.
      I understand all the sacrality and religiousness of Sumō must be preserved etc. But what are they holding grudge against him? Clapping hands during the “ancient ritual”, “religious ceremony” of a NHK interview!? Lol
      He´s always showed the upmost respect for every member of the hierarchy (and he´s famously one of the most outgoing, welcoming blokes in the jungyo), he´s always respected and showed upmost reverence to every ritual, every ceremony.
      He´s always been there when it was to involve kids, show support and cheer up hospitals and areas affected by the tsunami, etc.
      The way they are treating him in the moment he is leaving active Sumō, which should be a moment a rikishi is shown respect for all his career, is quite sad.

  3. The Magaki kabu belonged to Tatsunami/Isegahama during the 50’s-70’s but was transferred to Nishonoseki ichimon upon Wakanohana II’s retirement in 1983, until he split to Takanohana ichimon in 2010, and then he was taken into Isegahama beya. I am no longer sure it was really a “return to original ichimon” as I thought at first. 30 years in another ichimon is pretty long.

    • Sorry for the confusion – it was newsworthy and I tried to get a post that was as comprehensive as possible up as quickly as possible.

      Four of the greatest Dai-Yokozuna have been given the opportunity to continue their career as a sumo elder using their ring name as their elder name, and eventually running a stable which bore their ring name. Those three are Taiho, Kitanoumi and Takanohana. Chiyonofuji was offered the opportunity to do this and declined, instead taking the Kokonoe elder name.

      This is called an ichidai-toshiyori, a privileged one-generation elder name. The name cannot be passed on – once (for example) Takanohana oyakata closed the stable bearing his name and resigned from the sumo association, the name Takanohana could have been not be used by a successor. It is an honour given to the greatest of great Yokozuna.

      Entire posts could be written about the speculation over whether the sumo association would bestow the privilege of the ichidai toshiyori upon Hakuho and allow him to continue as Hakuho oyakata and eventually run Hakuho beya, and the decision they eventually took. However, a sub-committee of non-sumo association folks recently advised the Sumo Association – perhaps with Takanohana’s history and Hakuho’s forthcoming retirement in mind – to remove the ichidai toshiyori altogether. While no formal decision was made, Hakuho’s recent mis-steps in the eyes of some of the sumo public, the kyokai and YDC meant that it was very unlikely he would be bestowed the honour regardless. And as we later learned, there was significant discussion over whether to even allow him to become Magaki oyakata.

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