Wakaichiro had a disastrous first attempt at holding a Sandanme rank in Kyushu, managing only a single win across 7 bouts. But like any good rikishi, there is no giving up just because your last tournament was a dud. Now back in Jonidan at JD23e, he will try again to refine his sumo and prove that he can hold his own in the next higher division.
A handful of folks on Twitter and Facebook have questioned why Tachiai puts effort into covering this guy. Many assume because he’s American, and many of us are American too, so we cling to the familiar. I will insist that I am the primary instigator of our coverage, and the reasons are perhaps a bit more detailed.
- Wakaichiro is in a unique situation: Due to his combined American and Japanese parentage, he was able to enter the sumo world without being classified as a foreigner.
- Wakaichiro joined Musashigawa Heya: Musashigawa is an interesting experiment on how to incorporate some more modern elements into the routines at sumo stables. Run by former Yokozuna Musashimaru, it is an interesting experiment to try and build better rikishi.
- Wakaichiro is a genuinely nice fellow: Every time I have had any communication with the guy, he’s down to earth, direct, funny and quite clever. If you were looking for someone to represent sumo to a potential US fan base, he has the potential to make it work.
- Wakaichiro represents a question I have often considered: This guy played some football in school, then he joined sumo. There are many talented, strong, fast athletes that never make it in the pros, which frankly could represent a great pool of talent for the sumo world. But the question I have, do the football skills translate in any way? Wakaichiro is uniquely qualified to shed light on that question, and he is working hard to live the answer.
Followers of Wakaichiro are well aware that there have been significant efforts to tame his naturally kinky and quite voluminous hair. Many of the prior efforts have produced less than awesome results. It seems that the plan for the last few months has been to let his hair grow out and then try to straighten it. Early today in Japan, they did just that. Photos were posted to Twitter, one of which we shamelessly stole for the header on this post.
As always, we are going to cover Wakaichiro during Hatsu. Why? We Americans love an underdog, and this guy is one of a kind.