Kokugikan hosted the retirement ceremony for Ozeki Kotoshogiku on Saturday. His 18-year career started in maezumo back in 2002, along-side his buddy and high school sumo rival, Toyonoshima. (Toyonoshima actually claimed the Jonokuchi title in their debut, with a win over Kotoshogiku along the way. Toyonoshima then beat Kotoshogiku in the Jonidan playoff to earn that yusho.) His career as an active wrestler came to an end near his Fukuoka hometown in November 2020. But his career as a coach has just begun, using the name Hidenoyama-oyakata.
We can blame the pandemic for the nearly two-year delay in getting his haircut, so newer Tachiai readers may not have seen Kotoshogiku compete at all, much less during his prime. On the dohyo, he was known for his sujo-pleasing “gabburi-yori,” hip-thrusting technique. What it boiled down to was this: he’d wrap his opponent up, ideally with a firm belt grip but sometimes just a big ole bear hug, and use those massive thighs to basically hop his opponent out of the ring. He also had a signature component of his pre-bout ritual where he would do this deep back-bend, the Kiku-Bauer (菊バウアー), his version of the イナバウアー.
(There was a famous German figure skater named Ina Bauer-Szenes who was known for deep back bends in the late 1950s. Her signature move, the “Ina Bauer”, was adopted and popularized by Japanese Olympian, Arakawa Shizuka in the early 2000s.)
The Chrysanthemum, featured here on his kesho mawashi, is a motif tied closely to Kotoshogiku because it comes from his surname, Kitutsugi (菊次) . The kanji character, 菊, is the character for Chrysanthemum and is pronounced either Kiku or Giku. It resonates with Japanese because of the symbolism of the Kiku and its ties to the Emperor. The Chrysanthemum Throne refers to the Japanese monarchy. Those learning Japanese will be familiar with how sometimes pronunciation changes, often to make it a bit easier to say, so Kiku becomes Giku. Try to say “Kotoshokiku” three times fast and you’ll see it’s just a bit easier to say, “Kotoshogiku.”
In a testament to his longevity, his Ozeki run actually dates way back in 2011 as sumo returned to action after the match-fixing scandal forced the cancellation of the Osaka tournament and the calamitous Tohoku earthquake. That May, Hakuho was the lone Yokozuna while the Ozeki ranks were full with the likes of Kaio, Kotooshu, Baruto, and Harumafuji. Three tournaments and thirty-three wins later, Kotoshogiku debuted as Ozeki in front of his home-crowd in Fukuoka in November 2011. Kisenosato was promoted to Ozeki at the next tournament, and the two rivals would fight it out as fellow Ozeki for the next six years, until Kisenosato was promoted to Yokozuna and Kotoshogiku was demoted to Sekiwake.
I would be remiss not to mention his demotion and the grudge some sumo fans hold toward Terunofuji because of it. At the Haru-basho of 2017, he had already been demoted to Sekiwake after a terrible 5-10 showing in January. With five losses and three days remaining in the tournament, Kotoshogiku had to win out in order to reclaim his Ozeki rank. On Day 14, Kotoshogiku faced Terunofuji. The henka resulted in Kotoshogiku’s sixth loss making the demotion permanent.
Kotoshogiku continued to fight for nearly four years as a rank-and-file wrestler. There were some hopes that Toyonoshima, then down in Makushita and fighting to regain a slot in Juryo, might be able to rise high enough back into Makuuchi for the two rivals to fight again. But it was not to be. Toyonoshima was demoted back into Makushita in early 2020 and retired early in the pandemic, his last competitive bout during the Silent Basho. Kotoshogiku stayed until November when he closed out his career back in Kyushu.
The Delayed Retirement
A retiring Ozeki deserves a party. So Kotoshogiku waited until he could throw a proper party at Kokugikan. That means jinku singing, hanazumo, and hair-dressing demonstrations. It’s helpful to be a part of a storied stable like Sadogatake where there are three Makuuchi wrestlers so that no matter where you were in the audience, you got a pretty good view. Each of them also did their own versions of the Kiku-Bauer backbend as tribute to Kotoshogiku.
The Kotoshogiku flags were out, the crowds were packed to the rafters, and various momentos of his career were out on display.
The retirement ceremony also featured a host of his old friends and rivals taking turns cutting his hair, including Toyonoshima, Kisenosato, Hakuho, and yes…Vader (aka Terunofuji). [Vader’s helmet was supposed to evoke a Japanese kabuto and I think of it every time I see Terunofuji’s oicho-mage.] His sons faced him on the dohyo for his final bout. His home Sadogatake beya also featured an 8-way round robin among their Sandanme and Makushita wrestlers, won by Kotohaguro. Up-and-comer Kototebakari lost to Kotohaguro in the first round.
I was glad to see a fitting tribute to Kotoshogiku’s great career. There’s quite a lot of coaches there at Sadogatake, with a couple of high-rankers, so I am curious if he will be able to wait to inherit the stable or whether he will have to branch out on his own, sooner. If anyone has any insight into the the future of Hidenoyama, please drop some knowledge in the comments. Tomorrow, we will see another retirement ceremony, this time for Sokokurai.
The sumo word pays tribute to former Ozeki Kotoshogiku today, who after struggling in Juryo for the first 6 days of the November basho, declared his retirement from competition, effective immediately. This does not come as a big surprise, his body has been increasingly unable to execute much in the way of sumo, and it was clear he was not going to be able to score more than a few wins in Juryo, and would soon drop out of the salaried ranks. The good news, is that he has long held a kabu – a sumo elder position, which means he is joining the likes of Goeido, Yoshikaze, Takekaze and Kisenosato in a blue jacket and a spot at the table for YouTube videos. Here at Tachiai, we called him the “Kyushu Bulldozer”. When he got his favored grip and could engage his gaburi-yori / hug-n-chug attack, you were going out. Thanks for all of the excellent matches, sir! You are a legend in your own time.
Ishiura defeats Kotonowaka – Nice to see Ishiura not only using straight ahead sumo, but also win a match in the top division. Kotonowaka gave him a hearty double arm “back up” thrust at the tachiai, but Ishiura was undeterred and worked his size and mobility route really well. With Ishiura on a nominal kachi-koshi track, we might see him back in the top division for Hatsu.
Hoshoryu defeats Chiyonokuni – This match ended when Chiyonokuni decided to pull against Hoshoryu. Hoshoryu was ready, waiting and exploited Chiyonokuni’s release of forward pressure perfectly. First loss for Chiyonokuni, but he’s just 2 wins from kachi-koshi.
Shimanoumi defeats Kaisei – Another great win for Shimanoumi, he got Kaisei turned around, which normally spells a win. To his credit Kaisei is so big, and so strong that he was able to keep his feet while being pushed from the side and behind. But not for long, and Shimanoumi took him out. 6-1 for Shimanoumi? Nice!
Chiyotairyu defeats Yutakayama – After several days of low-velocity tachiai from Chiyotairyu, here comes the cannon-ball once more. It was a great time to bring it back, as Yutakayama took it fully in the chest, and ended up standing tall. Yutakayama was able to recover and go on offense, but lost the match with an expertly timed side step from Chiyotairyu.
Sadanoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – I was really enjoying some solid Chiyoshoma sumo today. He was on his sumo, and his body position was very good. He had a multiple of pull attempts against Sadanoumi, but was smart about it. They all failed, but none of them cost him half the ring in distance. Sadanoumi waited for his opportunity, and it came when Chiyoshoma went for a left hand outside grip. A fast pivot, and they both when down, with Chiyoshoma hitting the clay first.
Meisei defeats Ichinojo – You take a look at Ichinojo, and he would seem to be perfect dominating sumo. I like to say that in sumo that being enormous is not enough (except when it is). Ichinojo proves this almost daily. Is it injuries? Lack of focus? Today he let Meisei get both of his hands inside, and had no response. Meisei improves to 4-3.
Akua defeats Ryuden – Ryuden’s butt-dance is still with us, as is a little hip wiggle before he goes into the start crouch. It did not help him one iota today, as Akua could care less about Ryuden’s pelvis. The match was a fine yotsu battle, and the end came when Ryuden attempted a throw that was not quite ripe yet. The release of forward pressure opened the door for Akua’s winning combo. He improves to 3-4.
Kotoeko defeats Enho – Two small, powerful rikishi, and they really went at each other today. Enho did not have much of a speed or size advantage against compact mini-hulk Kotoeko. Enho’s duck and shift tachiai is a surprise to no one at this time, and it left him on defense when Kotoeko kept him centered and launched his opening attacks. Enho kept finding openings, but could only land a single attack, and none of them really gave him any advantage. Its a sad tale that Enho is now 0-7, and likely still injured from earlier in the year.
Tochinoshin defeats Endo – A bit of a surprise today, as Tochinoshin finds enough knee power to blast Endo far back into zabuton land for his 4th win. His run-out concluded with him hitting some poor fellow 5 rows back. All this at no extra cost, sumo fans!
Tamawashi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi decided he was going to power straight into Tamawashi’s tsuki-attack, and that went about as well as you might imagine. He receives a rolling hatakikomi, handing Tamawashi his 5th win.
Takarafuji defeats Tokushoryu – For some sumo fans, they might think “what an odd match”. They clash, they grab each other hidari-yotsu style, and then just sort of hang out. Even the gyoji (the amazing Konosuke) is not quite sure what they are up to. A few “Hakkeyoi!” into the scrum, they are still fumbling for hand position. But instead, the two continue their battle-cuddle, and no one is going to rush them. A flash of movement… is it starting? Nah, just getting comfy. Well, Takarafuji comes to the conclusion that Tokushoryu can and maybe does this all day, and decides to motor forward for a win. Takarafuji has an impressive 6-1.
Aoiyama defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho leaves the shikiri-sen early, and finds that he’s in a terrible spot to receive Big Dan’s meaty right hand. Kotoshoho gets his face in the clay, and I don’t think Aoiyama actually ever stood up. A much needed second win for the Bulgarian.
Daieisho defeats Myogiryu – These two threw the kitchen sink at each other. Slapping, pushing, tugging, hitting, they were just having a great day on the dohyo. but Myogiryu ran out of stamina first, and Daieisho took the win to improve to 4-3.
Tobizaru defeats Onosho – Tobizaru, was that a hint of Ryuden’s butt dance there? Oh lord, please don’t let this become a thing. Tobizaru’s match plan today – evade! Hit and shift, hit and shift. This was likely down to Onosho having balance and momentum control issues, and it payed off. Both leave the day at 2-5, and in search of more wins.
Takayasu defeats Kiribayama – I get frustrated with Takayasu, he seems to be influences by Hakuho’s “a bit of everything” match style. But if you watch Takayasu’s matches over the years, once he gets into yotsu mode, his chance of winning goes up dramatically. Today is a great example. As long as Takayasu and Kiribayama were trading blows, it was wide open as to who had advantage. As soon as Takayasu went chest to chest, he owned that match. 3-4 for the former Ozeki, 5 more to go.
Terunofuji defeats Wakatakakage – Terunofuji attempted a pull down early in the match, and that nearly cost him his first loss of November. I did like his recovery, he went tall, and pulled Wakatakakage up with him, robbing him of traction. Without any way to transmit power to ground, Wakatakakage’s charge ended short of a win. Terunofuji rallied, and push-carried Wakatakakage away for a win. Terunofuji remains undefeated at 7-0.
Kagayaki defeats Takanosho – Kagayaki struggled with this win, and it was Takanosho who had the better form, and frankly the better sumo today. But he lost his footing, and Kagayaki expertly put him down. A 3rd win for Kagayaki, he improves to 3-4.
Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – As was far too frequently seen today, Hokutofuji discarded a fairly even battle when he attempted to pull down Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi is a large, round, stable fighting system, and he does not pull down easily. But the release of attack pressure was enough to give Mitakeumi a route to push Hokutofuji out a moment later. Mitakeumi improves to 5-2.
Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – Nice technique from Takakeisho today. He had to keep Okinoumi away from his belt, and Takakeisho held Okinoumi back with his left hand, and kept thrusting with his right. We can call this variation a “Half wave” attack, and it was quite effective. Takakeisho remains unbeaten at 7-0.
After a lethargic 1-5 start in Juryo, Kotoshogiku has decided to retire.
Kotoshogiku was promoted to Ozeki in November 2011, coincidentally at his home Fukuoka tournament, after an impressive Jun-Yusho run in which he defeated Yokozuna Hakuho and then-Ozeki Harumafuji. He joined Baruto, Harumafuji and Kotooshu. Kisenosato joined the crowd of FIVE ozeki at Hatsu 2012.
Kotoshogiku went on to a long reign at Ozeki until 2017, which included a yusho at Hatsu in 2016. His bid for repromotion was famously ended by a Day 14 henka by Terunofuji but he remained in makuuchi until he was demoted to Juryo after September’s 2-10-3 record.
He’d previously hoped to face is childhood friend and rival, Toyonoshima before retirement but the banzuke did not cooperate and Toyonoshima retired in July after falling back out of the salaried ranks into makushita in March and was unable to recover. We at Tachiai have missed the backbend for a while now and we’d hoped to see perhaps a final rally but it is not to be.
Day 15 was an absolutely fantastic day of sumo. In contrast to some previous tournaments, no one really phoned it in today. It seems that everyone found they had a bit of energy left in the tank, and they threw it all into their final match. It was possibly the best day of sumo, all around, of the tournament.
First and foremost, my congratulations to Shodai. I know readers of this blog think I dislike this fellow, but my complaints were always technical. His sumo was sloppy, and his tachiai was ineffective. But following his 3-12 record last Aki, he changed. These kinds of changes are never on accident, they are the result of hard, relentless effort. Yokozuna Kakuryu’s influence can now clearly be seen in Shodai’s sumo with one critical difference – Shodai does not yet suffer the chronic injuries that will soon usher Kakuryu into his post competition life. My compliments to Kakuryu for finding a proper student, and nothing but praise to Shodai for taking this knowledge and making it his own through relentless work, and I would guess toughening up some degree. Word has come that he will be minted Ozeki in the days to come, and I think if he can stay healthy, he will make a formidable Ozeki for years to come.
Several of today’s matches had the sad overtones of a goodbye. We may have seen final matches from Kotoshogiku and Shohozan. I continue to wonder how much longer Ikioi is going to endure as well. These mainstays of sumo have given their all to the sport, but it seems their bodies are telling their unquenchable fighting spirit that it is time to move on.
While the focus is (rightly) on celebrating Shodai’s yusho, and his elevation to Ozeki, it’s worth noting the Ozeki yusho drought continues. Both Asanoyama and Takakeisho finished with fine scores (10-5, 12-3) worthy of an Ozeki. But both must have considered this no-kazuna basho to be their best chance at starting the promotion process by taking the cup. For Asanoyama, the pre-basho pressure was huge, and I think it disrupted his focus, and cost him important early matches. I also cannot stress enough that the lack of degeiko, and frankly jungyo, with its mass joint training sessions among top division rikishi has degraded the fighting capabilities of the top ranks. This may be especially true for Asanoyama, whose Takasago stable does not have another Makuuchi ranked rikishi to spar against. Shodai has Yutakayama, and Takakeisho has Takanosho, and yes, I think it did make a difference.
Ichinojo defeats Chiyonoo – Ichinojo’s sumo returns for this final match of Aki, and it was good to see. I would think he could have dispatched Chiyonoo at the tachiai, but the match went to extra time after Ichinojo got his left hand outside grip and decided to let Chiyonoo try to out muscle him. Credit to Chiyonoo, he rallied twice, and survived holding up the boulder longer than I thought he could. Ichinojo gets his 8th win, and will remain in the top division for November.
Shohozan defeats Ikioi – Shohozan has been struggling the entire tournament, but today he threw everything he had left into this fight against Ikioi (their 15th match). Both are heavily make-koshi, and I would expect at least one of them to consider intai following Aki. Shohozan will be ranked in Juryo for November, and Ikioi is just too hurt to really compete. But just for a moment, it was 2014 again, and these two were genki and beating the tar out of each other. Thanks guys.
Hoshoryu defeats Sadanoumi – I am happy that Hoshoryu was able to secure his kachi-koshi in his first top division basho. But the fact he was relegated to a Darwin match when ranked at Maegashira 16 shows that he still has work to do. I think because of his family connection to Asashoryu, people put a lot of pressure on this talented young guy, and just maybe it impacts his sumo at time. With luck he will shake that off one day, and we will see what he is capable of in his own right.
Wakatakakage defeats Shimanoumi – Absolutely brilliant tournament from Wakatakakage, and I am a bit surprised they did not award him a special prize. He will be riding a big wave toward the top of the banzuke, and I hope he can endure the intensity of the competition. To many it looked like Shimanoumi won this match at first glance, but Shimanoumi had clearly stepped out even before his throw attempt had completed rotation. An 11-4 final score for the leading Onami brother.
Tokushoryu defeats Onosho – Outstanding 10-5 final for Onosho, and we should see him back in the joi-jin for November. It was a bit troublesome that he dropped his last 2 matches. He ended up tucked in against Tokushoryu’s enormous belly, and from that position, it’s tough to do much. With the belly in control, even the remainder of Tokushoryu was forced to go where the belly demanded, and that was putting Onosho out of the ring.
Ishiura defeats Ryuden – By all rights, Ishiura should be trying to mend that ankle, but he not only showed up, we saw Ishiura’s quality sumo today. I was really impressed that he could shut down Ryuden’s forward power, and hold him checked at the center of the dohyo while he set up that throw. Ishiura finishes Aki 4-11. With any luck, lksumo may give us a hint on if that may be enough to keep him in the top division.
Kagayaki defeats Kaisei – The second “Darwin” match had a tough to describe kimarite. Really maximum effort from Kagayaki to keep Kaisei from establishing his desired hold, and preventing the Brazilian from overwhelming him. That attempt to finish the match fell apart in spectacular fashion, with each man counter-rotating and falling back to back.
Takayasu defeats Meisei – Takayasu controlled the center of the dohyo, and kept Meisei reacting to his sumo. Unable to really maintain his footing, Meisei found himself drive out of the ring. Both finish with respectable kachi-koshi, and we will see Takayasu in the joi-jin for November.
Kotoeko defeats Takarafuji – Holy smokes, what a battle! The third “Darwin” match was a long running chest to chest contest between Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo, and Kotoeko’s overwhelming drive to beat him no matter what. Takarafuji eventually had to settle for a left hand outside grip, but could not overcome Kotoeko’s defense. Excellent sumo from these two.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoshogiku – This might have been the final for Kotoshogiku. My thanks to Terutsuyoshi for not employing some punk move or henka against the former Ozeki, and let him go out fighting.
Enho defeats Myogiryu – It gave me a smile to see Enho finish out with a solid match like this. Myogiryu went in with a solid plan, but if Enho is dialed into his sumo, you are sometimes just along for the ride. Both finish with 6-9.
Kotoshoho defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi is another who seems to have lost about 30% of his power, and I have to wonder how long he will be able to keep up with the younger crop of rikishi who seem to be showing up in the top division, and coming into their own. Tamawashi had a big opening nodowa, but Kotoshoho just kept working forward, and overcame. A 10-5 finish for Kotoshoho – great stuff!
Hokutofuji defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin drove to get his left hand toward Hokutofuji’s mawashi, but could never connect. If you are Tochinoshin, and your main weapon gets shut down, what do you do? Why you pull of course! Hokutofuji is primed for that, puts the left hand death grip on Tochinoshin’s throat and moves him over the tawara.
Takanosho defeats Aoiyama – Impressed that Takanosho was able to resist Aoiyama’s initial attack. But I guess that if you share practice with Takakeisho every morning, you are used to getting a hundred or so kilograms of force applied to your face and shoulders. Takanosho focused center-mass and pushed forward for the win. Another solid 10-5 finish, and I am curious where that lands him in the san’yaku for November.
Daieisho defeats Okinoumi – Both end the tournament with more than 10 losses, and will be dropping out of the san’yaku. This match was dominated by Daieisho’s pulling effort at the close, which saw him galloping in reverse while tugging on Okinoumi’s head. Ok…
Kiribayama defeats Mitakeumi – Ah, Mitakeumi, the eternal Sekiwake. That last increment to Ozeki is outside of your grasp yet again. Mitakeumi was in reaction mode from the start today, and he let Kiribayama dominate the match. I am sure Kiribayama is delighted to return from kyujo and end the tournament with 9 wins, I just hope he did not permanently damage that left shoulder in the process.
Shodai defeats Tobizaru – A win here was all Shodai needed to finish his yusho run, and it was a great match. I have to compliment Tobizaru who contested strongly for the yusho in his first ever top division tournament. The opening gambit nearly overpower Shodai, and put Shodai’s heels on the tawara. Shodai rallied and bodily tossed Tobizaru nearly across the ring. Tobizaru grabbed an arm and reverse Shodai to the bales again, but an inspired pivot at the edge dropped Tobizaru as he lunged forward to finish Shodai. I would remind readers that, in my opinion, this is an early form of Shodai’s sumo, and a year from now, all of this stuff that looks rough and improvised may become polished and amazing to watch. I hope the Aki yusho winner and shin-Ozeki can stay healthy and compete with strength for many years to come.
Takakeisho defeats Asanoyama – Some might assume that with the yusho decided just minutes before, that this match would be anti-climatic. But to me it was quite informative in that Asanoyama, at the fundamental level, is a stronger and more versatile rikishi than Takakeisho. This was all about mental focus and stamina, and it seems, a bit to my surprise, that Takakeisho had more to bring to the dohyo today. I have not seen Asanoyama have to generate that much forward force in a long time, and it really distracted him from getting an effective hand hold, which is crucial to his sumo technique. With his offense disrupted, Asanoyama worked to break contact and re-engage. While that is solid sumo tactics, it merely set up Takakeisho’s penultimate attack. With all of that power now focused in Asanoyama’s chest through Takakeisho’s hands, Asanoyama found himself powerless to stop the fast run over the edge. Asanoyama has nothing to feel down about following this Aki basho, but I suspect he will assess his performance as falling short of expectations. Tip from an old man who has had wonderful successes in a few areas of life. Put the expectations aside, and enjoy what you are good at. When you can find a path to that, you will unlock your potential. You are an Ozeki, and the sumo fandom adores you. Have fun with it, like you did in your early days at the bottom of Makuuchi. The rest will take care of itself.
To our dear readers, thank you for spending the Aki basho with us. It’s been a blast covering this wide-open nokazuna tournament, and Team Tachiai appreciates you taking time to read and contribute.