One piece of long-anticipated news finally came to pass today, as former Sekiwake Aminishiki has officially branched out from Isegahama beya to launch Ajigawa beya.
It has been known for some time that Ajigawa was working on the construction of a new stable. In the meantime, the heya will take up temporary premises while the new build is completed. The oyakata himself started his career at Ajigawa beya before it was renamed to Isegahama in 2007, so the development will create a homecoming of sorts for ex-Aminishiki, whose near-career-long shikona’s first character is taken from the heya’s name.
With the launch of the new heya, Isegahama ichimon will see its members increase to six, with the heya joining the eponymous heya run by ex-Asahifuji, ex-Hakuho’s Miyagino beya, ex-Kaio’s Asakayama beya, ex-Kyokutenho’s recently redubbed Oshima beya, and ex-Kotonishiki’s Asahiyama beya in the group. With Isegahama himself due to retire in 2 1/2 years time, an interesting leadership group for the future is taking shape.
Sumo is a family business for the Suginomoris, and the new Ajigawa beya’s branch out from Isegahama will come with a curious wrinkle: Isegahama has long had a well developed scouting pipeline in Aomori (from where both ex-Aminishiki and ex-Asahifuji hail). Ajigawa is launching his stable with just one recruit – the shisho’s nephew Sakuraba who also hails from Aomori. It will be intriguing to see whether more Aomori based recruits filter into Ajigawa or Isegahama beya over the next couple of years, and also whether Ajigawa is able to cast a wider net in his search for promising new talent. With Sakuraba leaving along with “Uncle Sumo,” the Aomori contingent at Isegahama will consist of sekitori Takarafuji and Nishikifuji, along with Jonokuchi champion Takerufuji and the struggling youngster Yoshinofuji.
Also of note will be whether Ajigawa is able to put into practise any development characteristics gleaned from his time working – first as an active rikishi and then as a coach – under his second cousin Isegahama. Long respected as a master recruiter and developer of talent, the 63rd Yokozuna recently reached a milestone in being the first stablemaster in nearly 20 years to have six rikishi into the top division simultaneously.
Other hot topics to watch in the heya’s medium term future will be whether he inherits personnel (such as Tateyama-oyakata, ex-Homarefuji, or the presumably soon-to-retire Takarafuji) or rikishi upon Isegahama’s retirement, or even potentially the whole operation should a presumptive heir such as Yokozuna Terunofuji not be ready or able to inherit it in 2025. We may also be curious to learn whether he restores the A- naming convention notably bestowed on himself, his brother Asofuji, and of course Ama (later to become Yokozuna Harumafuji) among others, which was popular under the old version of the heya.
All of those issues are of course questions for the future. For the present, we will look forward to seeing Ajigawa’s first recruit make his first proper honbasho appearance in Jonokuchi in the upcoming tournament, and hope that the new shisho can bring in new recruits for him to train with as soon as possible.
Hat tip to our friend Kintamayama and Herouth for being among the first to report the news through various channels!