Asahisho Retires & Becomes Kiriyama Oyakata

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.

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!

Haru Day 3 – Ones to Watch

Beneath This Humble Visage Is a Man of Steel…

With day 2 loaded to the rafters with action among our “ones to watch”, it was fantastic to see that time and again, the rikishi we are following won their first matches. Some notable highlights

Wakaichiro looks healthier than he has in a while, and immediately overpowered Kotoito and ran him off the dohyo. We are still looking for sharable video of the match, and will publish it once it’s on YouTube.

Kenho, who looked horrid and lethargic at Hatsu, came out strong and blasted Toshonishiki from the south edge of the dohyo.

Hoshoryu’s match against Tokushinho included a leg trip that was executed with great skill. I have to say its damn exciting to see this young man competing this well at such a high rank. We all hope he can keep it going.

For fans of Musashikuni, maybe it’s time to think he has his injuries under control, and we get to see what this guy is capable of. He looked strong against Okinofuji for day 2.

With so many of our Ones to Watch winning day 2, they are now in the 1 win bracket, and are competing again on day 3. This includes what seems to be most of Musashigawa’s clan on the dohyo at some point today. It’s a back to back late night of sumo goodness for those of us in the US! On to the matches.

Hoshoryu vs Kizakiumi – This is a rematch of the Hatsu day 2 bout where Hoshoryu lost. Is it time for him to even the score? Will Hoshoryu peel away those Clark Kent glasses and battle like a son of Krypton? In January Kizakiumi overpowered Hoshoryu, maybe tonight he can return the favor.

Akua vs Tamaki – Akua has won both of their two prior match-ups, and it remains to be seen if Tamaki is going to be much of a challenge. Akua is still trying to get his sumo back together after his September Juryo debut ended in injury and kyujo. He has been struggling since, so don’t count Tamaki out.

Ichiyamamoto vs Asabenkei – Another juicy nugget in the top grouping in Makushita, newcomer Ichiyamamoto takes on the much bulkier veteran Asabenkei. Asabenkei was ranked in Juryo last year, before taking two tournaments off to recover from injury. This one is going to be brutal.

Midorifuji vs Gokushindo – Gokushindo took the Makushita yusho last September, and promptly bombed out of Juryo in Kyushu. Since then he has been trying to regroup, and now he needs to overcome a fairly genki Midorifuji.

Wakatakamoto vs Asahisho – A rematch from Osaka last year, which Wakatakamoto won. Asahisho was a Maegashira in 2012, but has been struggling since then. But we can consider Asahisho representative of the kind of rikishi Wakatakamoto will need to overcome to join his brothers in the salaried ranks.

Musashikuni vs Omoto – The scion of Musashigawa heya looks to improve to 2-0 against former University rikishi Omoto, who has been struggling with injuries for the past year. This has left him drifting between upper Sandanme and lower Makushita.

Torakio vs Musashiumi – Naruto’s Torakio takes on another of the Musashigawa clan, where both are looking to pick up their first win. Musashiumi is a 37 year old veteran, and will bring that experience to bare against youthful Torakio.

Shoji vs Daishozen – A bit further down the Sandanme torikumi we see Shoji taking on Daishozen, who should be considered a Sandanme mainstay. Advantage on mass and reach go to Shoji, so let’s see if he can make it work for him.

Wakaichiro vs Wakakinsho – Coming from a strong day 2 win, Wakaichiro gets a rematch against Wakakinsho. These two last met at Aki 2017, where Wakaichiro, was out-maneuvered and lost. This will be an interesting re-test, as Wakaichiro’s sumo has improved massively since then.

Juryo Kinjite (禁じ手) – Hair Pulling

One Of The Few Things You Can’t Do In Sumo

Day 10 Juryo bout between Kitataiki and Asahisho saw an interesting ending, ruled hansoku, or disqualifcation. This happened when Kitataiki pulled Asahisho by the topknot (chonmage). After the bout was decided, the judges held a Monoii, and Kitataiki was declared to have committed one of the few fouls in sumo. The bout was recorded as ending in “hansoku” or grave infraction of the rules.