Who’s That Rikishi #13: Nishikigi Tetsuya

NishikigiAge: 27
Birth Name: Tetsuya Kumagai
Home Town: Morioka, Japan
Stable: Isenoumi
Highest Rank: Maegashira 6

Tetsuya Kumagai was born in 1990 in the idyllic town of Morioka, Iwata Prefecture. Inspired by fellow Iwata born rikishi Yotsuguruma, Tetsuya joined Isenoumi Beya after graduating from high school. In 2006 he made his maezumo professional debut at the Haru Basho alongside fellow future Makuuchi stars Tochinoshin and Shohozan. Progress was slow but steady for Tetsuya, who reached the third highest division of Makushita at the 2010 Hatsu Basho. However, he was unable to handle the increase in competition and found himself back in Sandanme one tournament later. His second attempt at holding onto a Makushita went much better, but it marked something of a plateau for the young Tetsuya, who spent the next five years in Makushita, unable to put together a good enough run to get him to Juryo. It was during this time that he adopted the shikona of Nishikigi, becoming the first rikishi in one hundred and forty-four years to fight under this name.

While Nishikigi’s time in Makushita may have been arduous, it was not fruitless. At the 2010 November tournament, he nearly won his first championship in a multi-man playoff and took home the Makushita Yusho two years later at the 2012 Kyushu Basho. Nishikigi failed to carry the momentum of winning a championship forward and recorded only three wins at the following Basho, curtailing his chances of promotion to Juryo. After another two years of mediocre performances, he finally earned a spot in the Juryo Division for May 2015 after going 5-2 in four consecutive Basho. Nishikigi’s time in Juryo was drastically shorter than his Makushita stint, and one year later he made his top division debut. While his first showing in Makuuchi wasn’t stellar, he quickly got his sumo in gear, and by the 2016 Kyushu Basho, he reached a career-high rank of Maegashira 6. His new rank proved too much for the Iwata born rikishi to handle, and he recorded a terrible 4-11 record at Kyushu. This poor performance marked the beginning of a major nosedive down the banzuke, and by May Nishikigi was once more in Juryo.

Determined to get back into Makuuchi, Nishikigi recorded ten wins and clinched the 2017 Natsu Juryo Yusho in a senshuraku match against Aminishiki to punch his ticket back to the top division. Since returning to Makuuchi in July, Nishikigi has managed to stay in the top division despite being at risk of demotion several times in 2017-18. Nishikigi is well known for his severely limited sight, which requires him to wear glasses whenever he isn’t competing or practicing. His eyesight is so poor that he can’t even see the first row of fans while on the dohyo, a limitation Nishikigi has turned into an advantage, as he never feels nervous about competing in front of soldout crowds. A competent oshi-sumo fighter, Nishikigi employs strong yori-kiri and oshi dashi techniques to win his bouts.


Kyokutaisei (left) vs. Nishikigi (right), Hatsu Basho, 2018.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=6596
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/2892/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nishikigi_Tetsuya

Who’s That Rikishi #12: Ichinojo Takashi

Age: 24
Birth Name: Altankhuyag Ichinnorow
Home Town: Arkhangai, Mongolia
Stable: Minato
Highest Rank: Sekiwake

While most sumo fans like to imagine the boulder-sized Ichinojo rolling down a mountain and onto the dohyo to do sumo, the truth is that he was born on the beautiful plains of Arkhangai province, Mongolia. While far from the first Mongolian to enter Japan’s national sport, he was the first of his countrymen from a nomadic clan to join sumo. As a boy, he took part in traditional Mongolian wrestling called Bokh, going so far as to win his provinces Bokh championship when he was 14 years old. Moving to Japan for high school, Ichinojo initially practiced Judo until the school’s sumo coach convinced him to join his team. The young Mongolian went on to win five titles and the rank of amateur Yokozuna. His success caught the attention of Minato Beya, who recruited Ichinojo in 2013, making him their one allotted foreign-born rikishi. Due to his amateur Yokozuna title, Ichinojo was allowed to skip the bottom two divisions and debut in Makushita, making him the second foreign-born rikishi to do so. Upon debuting he automatically became the highest ranked member of his stable, as none of his stablemates were ranked higher than Sandanme. Ichinojo’s first official tournament in January 2014 was a huge success and marked the beginning of a meteoric rise up the banzuke for the young Boulder.

By May of that same year, he burst into the Juryo Division, having only lost two bouts in his career thus far. Despite the drastic increase in competition, Ichinojo held his own in Juryo and won the division Yusho in a four-way playoff. He nearly captured his second consecutive Juryo Yusho at the following Nagoya Basho, but fell to Tochinoshin in a playoff bout. Nevertheless, his 13-2 record was more than enough to warrant a promotion, and in September he made his Makuuchi debut at the rank of Maegashira 10. Like previous Honbasho, Ichinojo mowed through the competition, collecting six straight wins until a Day 7 loss to Ikioi. This turned out to be just a minor set back for the young Mongolian, who quickly returned to his winning ways. As the tournament progressed, Ichinojo began facing stronger opponents much higher up on the banzuke. However, even they couldn’t stop him. Having defeated both Ozeki Kisenosato and Goeido and Yokozuna Kakuryu, Ichinojo was matched up with Hakuho on Day 14, but he was unable to beat the Boss. Finishing in second place with a record of 13-2, Ichinojo was awarded both the fighting spirit and outstanding performance special prizes, and his rank was elevated all the way to Sekiwake for the following tournament.

Perhaps a symptom of the increased media attention and fanfare following his success in September, Ichinojo developed a bad case of shingles during the lead up to the 2014 Kyushu Basho. Unable to practice for much of the inter-Basho period, he failed to replicate the impressive numbers he had posted at Aki but managed to hold on to his Sekiwake rank with an 8-7 record. He was not so lucky at the 2015 Hatsu Basho. Recording only six wins, the young Boulder dropped out of San’yaku. An impressive showing in March and May, including a kinboshi victory over Harumafuji, resulted in Ichinojo regaining his Sekiwake rank for the 2015 Nagoya Basho. This tournament would prove disastrous for the Mongolian Rikishi, and he finished with a record of 4-11 and once again joined the Maegashira rank and fillers. Having firmly established himself as a Makuuchi mainstay, Ichinojo spent much of 2016 alternating between winning and losing records, until a herniated disk forced him to miss the Aki Basho. This injury, most likely a symptom of his ballooning mass, prompted the nearly 500 pound Mongolian rikishi to begin reducing his weight. Upon returning, the much lighter Ichinojo picked up right where he left off and continued flip-flopping between kachi koshi and make koshi. At the 2017 Kyushu Basho, Ichinojo scored double-digit wins for the first time in well over a year, when he finished the tournament with a 10-5 record and a gold star victory over Kisenosato. Building on his Bokh wrestling background, Ichinojo is a fierce belt wrestler, and his favorite grip is a right hand inside, left hand outside migi-yotsu. His preferred winning maneuver is the yorikiri forceout.


Ichinojo (left) vs. Ikioi (right), Aki Basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=12107
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/3498/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichinoj%C5%8D_Takashi

Who’s That Rikishi #11: Chiyonokuni Toshiki

Age: 27
Birth Name: Toshiki Sawada
Home Town: Iga, Japan
Stable: Kokonoe
Highest Rank: Maegashira 1

Chiyonokuni Toshiki was born the son of a Buddhist priest in the city of Iga, Mie Prefecture, Japan. As a child, he had a keen interest in martial arts and dreamed of becoming a professional rikishi. After graduating high school, Chiyonokuni entered Kokonoe Beya and began learning the art of sumo from former Dai Yokozuna turned Oyakata, Chiyonofuji. His first official tournament was the 2006 Nagoya Basho, where he recorded an impressive 6-1 record and secured a promotion to the Jonidan division. His Jonidan debut would have to wait, however, as an injury sidelined the young rikishi right before the Aki Basho, costing him his promotion. Returning to action in time for the 2006 Kyushu Basho, Chiyokuni won back his spot in Jonidan with another kachi-koshi and was well on his way to the Makushita division in mid-2007 when he was injured again and missed the Nagoya Basho. This would become something of a pattern for Chiyonokuni; getting ever so close to a promotion only to get hurt and have to start over again.

His fortunes changed in March of 2009 when Chiyonokuni returned from injury for the fourth time in his young career and took the Jonidan yusho. This victory marked the beginning of a hot streak for Chiyo, who quickly rose up through the ranks and established himself as a Makushita mainstay by March 2010. Following the match-fixing scandal, Chiyonokuni was elevated to the upper ranks of Makushita and eventually the Juryo division in early 2011, despite not posting spectacular records. Like many rikishi in his generation, he had become a benefactor of several top spots being vacated by rikishi involved in the scandal. One such disgraced rikishi was his fellow stablemate, Chiyohakuho. When asked about Chiyohakuho’s expulsion from the sport and his subsequent promotion as a result of the scandal, Chiyonokuni remarked that he didn’t know how to feel about the situation. Taking full advantage of the circumstances, the young man from Iga put together an impressive string of winning records that saw him break into the top Makuuchi division at the 2012 Hatsu Basho. His stay in the top division was short-lived, as a dislocated shoulder forced him to miss parts of Hatsu and Haru and all of the Natsu tournament. Chiyo returned to Juryo for the 2012 Nagoya Basho, where he took the yusho and soon won his way back to Makuuchi by November. Chiyonokuni spent the next two years in and out of the top division, until an injury at the 2014 Aki basho saw him withdraw from competition on day 8. This injury caused him to miss the following two tournaments, plummeting Chiyonokuni all the way back to the Sandanme division.

Unperturbed by this massive demotion, Chiyonokuni began his treck back to Makuuchi by taking the Sandanme division yusho with a perfect 7-0 record at the 2015 Haru Basho. This marked the beginning of an impressive comeback for the young rikishi, which culminated in his second Juryo championship in May of 2016 and a return to the Makuuchi division, where he has remained to this day. At the 2017 Natsu Basho, Choyonokuni debuted at a career-high rank of Maegashira 1. Despite picking up his first kinboshi victory over Yokozuna Kakuryu, the rest of the tournament was a disaster for Chiyo, and he finished with a dreadful 2-13 record. He bounced back from this poor performance with two consecutive kachi-koshi in July and September but failed to secure eight wins November. 2017 also marked a significant milestone in the life of Chiyonokuni, who married his longtime girlfriend Ai Hayashi, whom he met seven years prior. Chiyonokuni is primarily an oshi-zumo or “pusher-thruster” practitioner. Because of his relatively small size, he employs tsukiotoshi thrust downs and hatakikomi slap downs to take his larger opponents off their feet.


Chiyonokuni (left) vs. Kaisei (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=6642
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/2938/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiyonokuni_Toshiki

Legends of the Dohyo #6: Holy Grail

Futabayama Yusho
Futabayama, 1939

In January of 2015, Yokozuna Hakuho Sho made history when he won his thirty-third Emperors Cup, surpassing a record established by the legendary Yokozuna Taiho Koki over forty years prior. When he accepted his 32nd championship and drew even with Taiho one basho prior, Hakuho stated that the god of sumo had blessed his efforts on the dohyo. Blessed indeed, as he is one of only a select few to have ever amassed over thirty yusho, and even fewer have one to their name. It is the dream of all rikishi to one day win the yusho and lift the Emperors Cup, the holy grail of Japans national sport. Despite being the most prestigious, sought-after prize in all of sumo, the Emperor’s Cup simply did not exist for much of the sport’s history. Even the concept of the yusho, Japanese for victory, has only been a part of sumo for a third of its existence.

The evolution of the yusho we know today was long and gradual, and dates as far back as the seventeenth century. Before this time, many of the men who defined the pre-yusho era of sumo, such as Onogawa Kisaburo, Raiden Tameemon, and Inazuma Raigoro, received no official championships or recognition besides credit for having the best record of their respective basho. The first semblance of a yusho or prize in sumo is found in the Edo period, when onlookers rewarded their favorite rikishi for winning bouts by by throwing  gifts of money onto the dohyo. Over time, these gifts transformed into more organized prizes and trophies provided for each basho by private financiers and awarded to the rikishi with perfect records. However, as Hikiwake (draws), Azukari (Decisions too close to call), and absences were not considered loses during this period, the rikishi with the most wins was not always awarded the tournament prize. It was also common in this period for several rikishi with identical records to be declared the champion of a basho and receive rewards for their efforts, as playoffs would not be introduced until much later.

Around the turn of the century, in January of 1900, this old system underwent a major change when the Osaka Mainichi Shinbun newspaper company offered a kensho-mawashi as a prize for the rikishi with a perfect record or the fewest losses at the upcoming basho. This development would establish the concept of a singular champion for each basho. The first tournament to declare an official yusho champion was the 1909 summer basho, when Maegashira 7 Takamiyama Torinosuke defeated Ozeki Tachiyama Mineemon. While the system of an individual basho champion was begging to take form, there were still some key differences when compared to sumo today. The most significant of these differences was the protocol for breaking ties. There were no playoffs in sumo during this era, and in the case of two men having identical records, the yusho was awarded to the rikishi with the higher rank. Playoff rules would be incorporated into sumo in 1947 after several controversial decisions saw Higher ranked rikishi being chosen over men below them without consideration for the circumstances of the basho. One such controversy involved Ozeki Hitachiiwa Eitaro receiving the yusho over Meagashira Misugiiso Zenshichi, despite one of his wins coming by default.

The final piece of the modern yusho structure came in 1925 when Crown Prince Hirohito donated a trophy, called the Prince Regent’s Cup, to be awarded to the yusho winner of each basho. Upon Hirohito taking his place on the Chrysanthemum throne in 1926, the trophy was renamed the Emperors Cup, and has remained the physical embodiment of the yusho ever since. From humble beginnings of monetary gifts showered upon rikishi from the common folk, the concept of a yusho unfolded gradually, eventually evolving into a splendid trophy from the highest lord in all the land, the Emperor himself. The yusho has become a milestone achievement, a career-definer, and the holy grail that every rikishi strives for each and every day.

Who’s That Rikishi #10: Asanoyama Hideki

Asanoyama WTR

Age: 23
Birth Name: Hiroki Ishibashi
Home Town: Toyama Prefecture, Japan
Stable: Takasago
Highest Rank: Maegashira 11

When it came to sports, sumo was not Asanoyama’s first choice. Instead, the young man from Toyama Prefecture practiced handball until entering junior high school. Joining his school’s sumo team, he nearly cut his career short after sustaining an elbow injury, and seriously considered quitting sumo. He persevered and went on to a successful High school career, eventually earning a scholarship to Kinki University where he entered the renowned sumo program that had produced top rikishi such as Takarafuji, and Tokushoryu. During his time studying at Kinki University, Asanoyama won seven college titles, putting him in the top four in All-Japan Sumo Championships. After graduating, Asanoyama joined Takasago beya where he trained under former Ozeki and fellow Kinki University graduate Asashio Taro IV. Having been a multiple time university champion, Asanoyama was allowed to skip the two lowest ranks and debut in the Sandanme division at the 2016 Haru basho. In his first tournament he scored a 5-2 kachi koshi, the first of many to come. He followed this excellent start with back to back 6-1 records and received a promotion to the Makushita division in September.

Much like his time in Sandanme, Asanoyama spent only three basho in Makushita, taking the divisions yusho at the 2017 Hatsu basho on rout to a Juryo promotion. Prior to this promotion, Toyoyama beya had lost both their Sekitori status, marking the first time the stable had been without a top division wrestler since 1878. With Asanoyama joining the Juryo division, he ensured his stable would have sekitori representation once more. Asanoyama’s first tournament in Juryo was one of great success; the young rikishi finished with a 10-5 record but lost the yusho in a playoff to the veteran Toyohibiki. He once again found himself in a playoff situation at the Nagoya basho, yet this time a loss to Daiamami would cost him the yusho. Despite losing the championship, his record would be enough to land him a spot in the top Makuuchi division for the 2017 Aki basho. His first top division outing began with mixed results, as he ended day 6 with three wins and three losses. When asked about his early performance, Asanoyama remarked that he felt cursed by the east side of the dohyo, as all his losses had come on that side. He overcame this curse, however, and went on to post five straight wins, remaining just one win behind the yusho leader until day 13. Finishing the tournament with a 10-5 record, Asanoyama received the fighting spirit special prize for his standout Makuuchi debut. At the following Kyushu basho, he failed to replicate the success he had in September and recorded his first career make koshi after winning only five of his fifteen bouts. Primarily a yotsu sumo specialist, Asanoyama relies on mawashi grappling techniques to win his matches. His most common kimarite is a yorikiri force out.


Daieisho (left) vs. Asanoyama (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=12291
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/3682/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asanoyama_Hideki

Who’s That Rikishi #9: Kaisei Ichiro

Age: 30
Birth Name: Ricardo Sugano
Home Town: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Stable: Tomozuna
Highest Rank: Sekiwake

Unlike many of his childhood friends, Ricardo Sugano was not interested in his Brazilian homelands favorite pastime of soccer. Instead, the young Sao Paulo native spent his time studying martial arts and had a keen interest in judo. After a family friend encouraged Ricardo to take up sumo, he began practicing the sport and went on to win a Brazillian Amature Sumo Championship. This success prompted him to travel to Japan to become a professional rikishi, and in 2006 he entered Tomozuna beya where he joined fellow Brazillian rikishi Kaishin. He made his professional debut at the 2006 Aki basho and officially adopted the shikona of Kaisei Ichiro. In just under two years, Kaisei had advanced through the three lowest divisions, but he would lose his momentum upon entering the Makishita division and remained there for the next three years.

Kaisei’s fortunes began to turn in September of 2009 when he went undefeated at the Aki basho, only losing the yusho in a playoff with fellow gaijin rikishi Gagamaru. Three tournaments later, in July of 2010, Kaisei broke into the Juryo division and became the fourth Brazillian born rikishi to reach sumo’s salaried ranks. In November of that same year, Kaisei won his first and only championship when he took the Juryo yusho with an 11-4 record, this time beating Toyohibiki, Tochinowaka, and Takayasu in a four-way playoff. He followed this success with another kachi koshi in January and earned a promotion to the Makuuchi division. Kaisei’s first tournament in the top division saw him go undefeated until a day 10 loss to Tochinoshin. With nine straight wins, the Brazillian rikishi achieved the second-longest winning streak for a debuting Maegashira wrestler, falling just two wins short of tying Taiho’s 1960 record. Kaisei would finish the tournament with double-digit wins and take home the fighting spirit prize.

Kaisei struggled through much of 2012, routinely getting make koshi records yet picking up just enough wins to remain in the top division for most of the year. He had something of a return to form at the 2012 Nagoya basho, going 11-4 and winning his second fighting spirit prize. Kaisai also found success at the following years Nagoya basho, where he again finished with eleven wins and took the jun-yusho. In May 2016, Kaisei broke into the san’yaku and reached his highest rank of Sekiwake one tournament later. He was unable to maintain his new position for long, and by the end of the year he had become a rank and filler once again. Kaisei was injured while training for the 2017 Haru basho, and for the first time in his career, he was forced to pull out of a tournament. A poor performance in Nagoya say him fall back to Juryo, but this demotion seemed to be just what the doctor ordered as the Brazilian rikishi posted 10 wins, returned to the top division, and finished the year with consecutive kachi koshi. Kaisei mainly uses yotsu-sumo techniques, winning 51% of his bouts with a yorikiri forceout. His favorite grips is a left hand outside, right hand inside migi-yotsu.


Kaisei (left) vs. Ikioi (right), Aki basho, 2017


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=6753
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/2950/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaisei_Ichir%C5%8D

Who’s That Rikishi #8: Takanoiwa Yoshimori

TakanoiwaAge: 27
Birth Name: Adiya Baasandorj
Home Town: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Stable: Takanohana
Highest Rank: Maegashira 2

Born in Ulaanbaatar in 1990, the future Takanoiwa Yoshimori was introduced to Japan’s national sport when the sumo coach from Johoku High School came looking for Mongolian talent to join his team. Having passed the selection test, he moved to Japan when he was sixteen and began honing his skills at Johoku. In 2008 he joined Takanohana beya to train under his childhood idol, former Yokozuna Takanohana. After a successful première at the 2009 Haru basho, Takanoiwa was promoted to Jonidan for the May tournament, where he recorded a perfect 7-0 record but lost the division yusho in a playoff. He won his first championship two basho later when he once again recorded a 7-0 record and took home the Kyushu Sandanme yusho. Takanoiwa’s championship performance earned him a promotion up the banzuke into the Makushita division in January, but he struggled to find success. Takanoiwa’s luck didn’t improve in early 2011, as he was forced to pull out part way through the Natsu basho and missed the entirety of the Nagoya basho due to injury. As a result, he found himself back in the Sandanme division upon his return. Unperturbed, Takanoiwa won six of his seven matches in September and was promoted back to Makushita. Another 6-1 record in Kyushu put him in contention for the Makushita yusho, but another playoff loss cost him the championship.

Takanoiwa made his Juryo debut in July of 2012, but subsequent back-to-back make-koshi nearly cost him his position in the division. He had a return to form for the 2013 Hatsu basho and took the Juryo yusho with an impressive twelve wins. The rest of the year saw Takanoiwa produce winning records in four out of the five remaining tournaments, and he broke into sumo’s top rank at the beginning of 2014. He returned to Juryo three tournaments later, after suffering a staggering thirteen losses at the May basho. The Mongolian rikishi would spend the next year and a half in and out of Makuuchi until cementing his place in the division in early 2016. Takanoiwa’s first top division success came at the 2016 Nagoya basho, where he finished second place behind Harumafuji and was awarded his first sansho special prize for fighting spirit. Following this incredible performance, he was promoted to Maegashira 3 for Aki, but struggled against the joi and fell back into the middle of Makuuchi by November. 2017 started with a bang for Takanoiwa, who collected eleven wins, including one kinboshi victory over Hakuho. Beating the Dai-Yokozuna had a tremendous impact on the Hatsu basho and the sumo world, as it cost Hakuho the Emperor’s Cup and lead to Kisenosato picking up the long-sought-after yusho he needed to become the first Japanese born Yokozuna since Takanoiwa’s own oyakata, Takanohana, retired in 2003. For his efforts, Takanoiwa was awarded his first outstanding performance award and his highest rank to date, Maegashira 2. Once again the joi proved to be too much for Takanoiwa, who fell back to the mid-Magashira where he remains to this day. When meeting his opponents on the Dohyo, Takanoiwa mainly employs yotsu-zumo to win his bouts. His preferred grip is a left hand outside right hand inside migi-yotsu. His most common kimarite is a yori-kiri force out, but he is known to employ an uwatenage overarm throw to win as well.


Takanoiwa (left) vs. Goeido (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=11724
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=3146
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takanoiwa_Yoshimori

Legends of the Dohyo #5: A Family Divided Part 2

Takanohana Wakanohana

Part One

By the early 90’s, Takanohana II and Wakanohana III, the young princes of sumo, were poised to dominate the future of the sport. They emerged at the forefront of a new generation of talent and had already amassed several awards and accolades, adding to those of their legendary father and uncle. The Hanada family dynasty had never looked stronger. Held up as the model of a perfect Japanese family, few could have predicted their downfall.

For much of their early careers, the Hanada brothers were considered near equals. As time went on, however, it was becoming clear that the bigger and stronger Takanohana was eclipsing his elder brother. In 1994, Takahanohana took four of the year’s six yusho and earned a promotion to the sports highest rank of Yokozuna, while Wakanohana suffered from injuries and remain out of yusho contention for the majority of the mid 90’s. The elder Hanada brother briefly stepped out of his sibling’s shadow at the 1995 Kyushu basho, where he won the yusho in a sudden death play-off against Takanohana. This bout would mark the first, and only time the two brothers ever competed against each other, due to rules forbidding siblings and stablemates from facing off outside of playoffs. In commenting about losing to his own brother, Takanohana stated that he “couldn’t come to terms” with the outcome of the match. Never the less, He carried his brothers yusho-ki banner as Wakanohana celebrated with fans. The first cracks in their relationship began to surface in 1998 when Takanohana developed a liver disorder. To combat this disease, the young Yokozuna consulted with physical therapist Tashiro Tomita. Tomita had a significant impact on Takanohana. In following his therapist’s teachings, Takanohana began to seclude himself from his family. This caused great concern for his father, who believed Tomita was brainwashing his son. During this time, Wakanohan finally managed back to back yusho wins and became sumo’s 66th Yokozuna. Despite making history by becoming the first brothers ever to be Yokozuna simultaneously, Takanohana and Wakanohana scarcely spoke to each other. Although Takanohana eventually reconciled with his family, this had opened the eyes of the world to the underlying issues that afflicted their perceived perfect family.

By the early 2000’s, both brothers had retired from sumo due to persistent injuries. While Wakanohana sought a career first in American football and later as a chanko-nabe restauranteur, Takanohana remained in the sumo association, taking over his father’s prestigious stable. Upon the death of their father in 2005, the Hanada family was divided by an incredibly bitter and public dispute between the two former Yokozuna. As an active member of the association, Takanohana demanded that he be the chief mourner at his father’s funeral, and not his older brother who had left the sumo world to chase fame and celebrity. Rumours also circulated that their quarrel was the result of uncertainty regarding the late Takanohana I’s estate, as he left his children no will.  Although Wakanohana did not give into his brothers demand to be cheif mourner, he did forfiet his claim to their father’s estate. Giving up his inheritance would not be enough to make peace with Takanohana, and from that point on the two brothers became like strangers, rarely if ever speaking to one another.  The once mighty Hanada dynasty, who had ruled the sumo world for nearly five decades, had been shattered.


 

Takanohana (left) vs. Wakanohana (right), Kyushu basho, 1995.


Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wakanohana_Masaru
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takanohana_K%C5%8Dji

Who’s That Rikishi #7: Tochinoshin Tsuyoshi

TochinoshinAge: 30
Birth Name: Levan Gorgadze
Home Town: Mtskheta, Georgia
Stable: Kasugano
Highest Rank: Sekiwake

Tochinoshin was born Levan Gorgadze, in the city of Mtskheta in 1987. As a teenager, the young Georgian practiced the Soviet martial art of Sambo and was a national level judo fighter. By the early 2000’s he took up amateur sumo and competed in several Junior and World Championships. While training with the Nihon Universities sumo team, he was scouted by Kasugano Oyakata. Levan joined Kasugano beya in 2006 and made his first professional appearance at the Haru basho. Adopting the shikona of Tochinishin, the Georgian native tore through the lower divisions, collecting eleven straight winning records. This hot streak was more than enough to land him a spot in Juryo for January 2008, where he’d win the Juryo yusho with an impressive 12-3 record. Following another winning record at the Haru Basho, he broke into Makuuchi in May.

Starting at Maegashira 14, the young Georgian experienced his first ever make-koshi losing record at the 2008 Natsu Basho. His first taste of top rank success came at the 2009 Kyushu basho when Tochinoshin finished second place behind Yokozuna Hakuho in the yusho race and collect his first Sansho special price for fighting spirit.Tochinoshin picked up his second fighting spirit award at the 2010 Natsu basho after defeating four ozeki in a row and finishing with an 8-7 record. This feat would earn him his first position in the San’yaku, and he debuted at Komusubi in July. His time in the joi was short-lived, and a poor 6-9 performance relegated him back to the Maegashira. He’d reach Komusubi again in Kyushu of 2010, but his fate was identical to the first time. In May of 2011, Tochinoshin replicated his previous second place finish with an identical 12-3 record and took home his third fighting spirit award. This exceptional performance would earn him his third promotion to Komusubi. Once again, he only accumulated six wins at the rank and returned to the Maegashira within one tournament.

Late 2011 also saw Tochinoshin embroiled in controversy. After a night out celebrating his birthday, Tochinoshin returned to his heya after the strict curfew his Oyakata had set. Not only had he missed his curfew, but Tochinoshin had broken the rules by going out in western style clothes. This this was not Tochinoshins first time breaking the rules, his Oyakata became enraged and proceeded to beat the Georgian and his fellow rikishi with a golf club. Following his beating, Tochinoshin fled his stable but returned two days later. During this time, the police had been alerted to what had happened and discovered a bent golf club inside the heya. His Oyakata was reprimanded by the association but was spared a criminal investigation when Tochinoshin and the other rikishi declined to press charges. As punishment for breaking the rules, Tochinoshin was not allowed to attend practices for a time following the incident, which the Georgian credited as the reason for his poor performance at the November tournament. Further misfortune would strike Tochinoshin in July of 2013 when he sustained a severe knee injury at the Nagoya Basho. This injury forced him to miss three straight tournaments and resulted in his demotion back to the Makushita division. Despite this setback, Tochinoshin made an incredible comeback, collecting four consecutive championships and exploding back onto the Maegashira scene at the 2014 Kyushu Basho. He managed 11 wins in Kyushu and took home his fourth career fighting spirit award.

2015 would be another successful year for the Georgian rikishi, who picked up his first kinboshi victory over Harumafuji, a fifth Komusubi promotion, and his fifth fighting spirit award. He’d experience another career milestone at the 2016 Natsu basho, where he finished with a 10-5 record and his first ever technique prize. His performance earned him a promotion to Sekiwake, his highest rank to date. Much like his Komosubi runs before, his time at Sekiwake lasted only one basho. At the 2017 Hatsu tournament, injury once again forced Tochinoshin to withdraw from competition. His time off the dohyo was substantially shorter this time, and he returned for the following tournament in March where he would be runner-up for the third time in his career. At the Nagoya basho, Tochinoshin collected a kinboshi win over Kisenosato and finished with a respectable 9-6 record. Despite high expectations for the Georgian coming into September, Tochinoshin only managed four victories after nagging issues with his knee resurfaced. After a rebound tournament in November that saw the Tochinoshin go 9-6, he entered the 2018 Hatsu basho ranked at Maegashira 5. From day one Tochinoshin dominated his competition, tearing through the San’yaku and the Joi and eventually finishing with an incredible 14-1 record, clinching his first ever career Yusho. With this victory, Tochinoshin became the first Maegashira ranked wrestler to win a yusho since 2012, and just the third European to ever lift the Emperors Cup. Following his tournament win, Tochinoshin was promoted to the rank of Sekiwake for the 2018 Haru Basho. Known for his tremendous strength, Tochinoshin is a skilled mawashi fighter who uses yotsu-sumo to win the majority of his matches. His preferred grip is a right hand inside left hand outside migi-yotsu, which he uses to force his opponents out of the dohyo.


Tochinoshin (left) vs. Hokutofuji (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=6599
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=2895
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tochinoshin_Tsuyoshi

Who’s That Rikishi #6: Daishomaru Shogo

DaishomaruAge: 26
Birth Name: Shogo Kawabata
Home Town: Osaka, Japan
Stable: Oitekaze
Highest Rank: Maegashira 7

Daishomaru Shogo was born in the bustling city of Osaka Japan in 1991. As a primary school student, He competed in city-wide competitions and earned the rank of children’s sumo Yokozuna in the sixth grade. After completing primary school, he was scouted by the coach at Meitoku Gijukun, an elite sports boarding school. Daishomaru joined their sumo team and went on to win a national championship. After the death of his coach, he elected to attend Kanazawa Gakuin High School rather than continue in the Meitoku system. He experienced great success at Kanazawa, collecting one individual championship and several team titles. When it came time to pick a university, Daishomaru chose to attend Nihon University for their renowned sumo program. Although injury  prevented him from competing for his first two years at Nihon, he recovered and become one of the university teams co-captains. In the semifinals of a national tournament, he would best his fellow co-captain to win the championship. With this victory, he qualified to enter sumo at the rank of makushita tsukedashi, rather than starting at Jonokuchi.

In 2014 Daishomaru joined Oitekaze beya. His Oyakata had also attended Nihon University, as had his stablemate, the ever popular Endo. He finished his premiere tournament with a respectable 5-2 record at the 2014 Haru basho, and would get back to back kachi-koshi in May and July. After two consecutive make-koshi, Daishomaru put together a strong run of winning records that earned him a promotion to Juryo for the 2015 Natsu basho. After winning only six matches in his Juryo debut, Daishomaru returned to the Makushita division for the following tournament. He would rebound almost immediately, taking the Nagoya Makushita yusho and climbing back into the Juryo division by September. Daishomaru entered the Makuuchi division in March of 2016 and reached his highest rank to date, Maegashira 7, two tournaments later at Nagoya. He spent much of 2017 at the bottom of Makuuchi until a stand out performance at the September competition saw him pick up ten wins and contend for the yusho up until day seven. As an oshizumo practitioner, Daishomaru prefers to fight with a strong pushing offense. Statistically, he wins 35% of his matches with an oshidashi pushout, and 30% with a tsukiotoshi thrust down.


Daishomaru (left) vs. Tokushoryu (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=12144
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=3535
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daish%C5%8Dmaru_Sh%C5%8Dgo

Who’s That Rikishi #5: Okinoumi Ayumi

OkinoumiAge: 32
Birth Name: Ayumi Fukuoka
Home Town: Okinoshima, Japan
Stable: Hakkaku
Highest Rank: Sekiwake

Okinoumi Ayumi never intended to take up professional sumo. Born Ayumi Fukuoka on the Western Japanese island of Okinoshima, he saw his future out on the sea rather than atop the Dohyo. While studying to be a licensed mariner, Ayumi was introduced to former Yokozuna Hokutoumi Nobuyoshi. Now oyakata of Hakkaku beya, Hokutoumi convinced Ayumi to join his stable and pursue a career in sumo. In 2005, Ayumi made his professional debut in Osaka, fighting under his family name of Fukuoka. After three years of hard work and steady progress, Fukuoka experienced his first taste of success when he won the Makushita yusho with a perfect 7-0 record at the Hatsu basho of 2009. This victory earned him his first promotion to the Juryo division. Before his Juryo debut, he addopted his new shikona of Okinoumi to pay homage to his home island. Back-to-back poor performances of 4-11 and 5-10 would see the newly named Okinoumi relegated back to Makushita for Nagoya. This demotion prompted him to adopt the name Fukuoka again, which seemed to have a positive effect on the young rikishi as he earned another Juryo promotion at the 2009 Aki basho.

The re-christened Okinoumi made his Makuuchi debut at the 2010 Haru basho, becoming the first rikishi from Shimane prefecture in 88 years. In early 2010 the sumo world was rocked by the baseball gambling scandal, and as a result of his involvement in illegal betting, Okinoumi was suspended for the Nagoya basho and demoted to Juryo for the following tournament. A strong performance in September saw him back in Makuuchi by the 2010 November tournament. Okinoumi’s 2011 started with an impressive 11-4 at the New Year tournament, where he finished second place in the yusho race and picked up his first special prize. After two years of being a rank and filer, Okinoumi recorded his second career jun-yusho at the 2013 basho in Osaka. His performance also earned him a promotion to Komusubi, but a 4-11 record at the Natsu basho would land him back in the Maegashira once more.

March 2015 would see Okinoumi receive a significant bump up the banzuke from Maegashira 6 to Sekiwake, his highest rank to date, due to the underperformance of several rikishi above him. An injury forced him to cut his first tournament at Sekiwake short, however, and he droped back down to the lower Maegashira for the 2015 Natsu basho. Except for two brief appearances at Komusubi, nagging health issue would keep Okinoumi floating around the mid to high Maegashira throughout the rest of 2015 and much of 2016. A respectable 9-6 showing at the 2016 Aki basho, which also saw him take home the outstanding performance prize and two kinboshi victories, resulted in another promotion to Sekiwake for the November competition. Much like before he would not hold on to this position for long, and was soon back amongst the rank and filers where he has remained to the present. Preferring to fight on the mawashi, Okinoumi uses a variety of yotsu-zumo techniques to win his matches. His favorite kimarite winning move is a yorikiri, and he prefers a migi-yotsu left hand outside right hand inside grip. Much like fellow rikishi Endo, Okinoumi is also very popular with sumo’s female fans due to his handsome appearance.


Endo (left) vs. Okinoumi (right), Kyushu basho 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=6463
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=2759
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okinoumi_Ayumi

Who’s That Rikishi #4: Chiyomaru Kazuki

Chiyomaru

Age: 26
Birth Name: Kazuki Kinoshita
Home Town: Shibushi, Japan
Stable: Kokonoe
Highest Rank: Maegashira 11

With his rotund physique and jolly personality, one would be hard-pressed to miss Chiyomaru Kazuki. Born in Shibushi city in 1991, Chiyomaru practiced judo throughout much of his youth before entering Kokonoe beya after high school. His younger brother Chiyootori Yuki joined him a year later, and together the two trained under former Yokozuna Chiyonofuji. In 2007 Chiyomaru made his professional debut and made steady progress through sumo’s lower ranks over the next few years. Tragedy would strike his family in 2011 when a fire burned down his parents’ home. Chiyomaru and his brother, now an active rikishi as well, decided to turn their tragedy into motivation and vowed to become more successful to help their parents rebuild their home.

It appeared that Chiyomaru’s younger brother was more serious about their vow, and in 2012 Chiyootori overtook his elder sibling and reached the salaried rank of Juryo. In an attempt to motivate him to train harder, Chiyonofuji assigned Chiyomaru to be a tsukebito for his brother. This assignment had the desired effect on Chiyomaru, who felt shame in being his little brother’s personal attendant. From this point on he applied himself full-heartedly to his training and eventually joined Chiyootori in Juryo at the 2013 Aki basho. In January of the following year, Chiyomaru won his first division championship, taking the Juryo yusho with a 13-2 record. This victory ensured his promotion to the Makuuchi division for the following tournament, where Chiyomaru  joined Chiyotoori and marked the tenth time in history two brothers had competed in the top division simultaneously. Another strong performance saw him promoted to Maegashira 11 for the 2014 Natsu basho, his highest rank to date. Chiyomaru remained in the lower Makuuchi for the next year until a disastrous 3-12 record in May of 2015 saw him relegated back to Juryo. Unable to put together a streak of winning records good enough to warrant a return to the top division, he remained in Juryo for another two years. In July of 2017, Chiyomaru was able to re-establish himself as a top rank rikishi, and he has remained in Makuuchi ever since. Chiyomaru mainly uses oshi-zumo on the dohyo, winning nearly 60% of his matches with either an oshidashi pushout or a yorikiri forceout. Chiyomaru has developed a large following of female fans who find him incredibly kawaii, and who affectionately nicknamed him 22, referencing his body fat percentage.


Kaisei (left) vs. Chiyomaru (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=7240
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=3040
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiyomaru_Kazuki

Legends of the Dohyo #3: The Peerless One

Raiden2

Throughout sumo’s long and storied history, there have emerged several men whose exceptional skill on the dohyo has led them to be considered the greatest of all time. Taiho, Chiyonofuji, Takanohana II, Asashoryu, Hakuho. These are all sekitori whose status as the best of the best has been hotly debated even to this day. Yet there is one man from sumo’s distant past who may overshadow them all. A rikishi whose sheer dominance elevated him to the status of legend. The mighty thunderbolt, Raiden Tameemon.

Like many legends, this story has humble beginnings. Born Seki Tarokichi in 1767, the man who would one day be known as Raiden Tameemon grew up in a small village in Shinano province. Even in his youth, Tarokichi’s strength was already considerable, and his father enrolled him in sumo classes in a nearby village when he was fourteen years old. During a 1784 jungyo tour of Shinano, the young Tarokichi impressed the visiting stablemaster of Urakaze beya with both his strength and extraordinary height. Standing over six feet tall he was considered a giant compared to his fellow countrymen. Tarokichi was invited to train at Urakaze stable in Edo (modern-day Tokyo) where he honed his sumo techniques. His time at Urakaze was short-lived, and he soon began training at Isenoumi beya under Tanikaze Kajinosuke, sumo’s fourth Yokozuna and the first to hold the position while still living.

In 1790, Tarokichi would make his professional debut at the winter tournament under his new shikona of Raiden, which roughly translates to “thunderbolt”. He finished his first basho with the best record of all rikishi who had participated, including his teacher Tanikaze and the fifth Yokozuna Onogawa Kisaburo. In 1795 Raiden attained the rank of Ozeki, a position he held for seventeen years. Of the thirty-five tournaments he entered, Raiden emerged victorious on twenty-eight occasions*. Of these victories, seven were won without a single loss**, giving the Thunderbolt a record winning percentage of 96%. His supremacy on the dohyo became so renowned that the Sumo Association began limiting the techniques he could use in an attempt to keep his matches more exciting and less one-sided.

Despite dominating sumo for two decades, Raiden would never attain the prestigious rank of Yokozuna, retiring as an Ozeki in 1811 at the age of 44. There have been many theories as to why he was never awarded the title, the most likely of which involving his strained relationship with the Yoshida clan. At the time, only the Yoshida clan held the authority to issue official Yokozuna licenses. It has been hypothesized that Raiden was denied a license due to his ties to the Tokugawa Shogun, whose regime was deeply opposed by the Yoshida. Despite never being granted the rank of Yokozuna, In 1900 his name was inscribed on the Yokozuna Stone at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine, with the only title befitting his tremendous impact on sumo: “Peerless Rikishi” Raiden Tameemon.

* These are not considered official victories as the current yusho system did not come into effect until 1909.
**Although Raiden did not suffer any defeats during these tournaments, several of his matches ended in draws where the winner could not be decided definitively.

Links
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=3143
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raiden_Tameemon
Sumo Matchup Centuries in the Making

Who’s That Rikishi #3: Kagayaki Taishi

KagayakiAge: 23
Birth Name: Tatsu Ryoya
Home Town: Kanazawa, Japan
Stable: Takadagawa
Highest Rank: Maegashira 4

Tatsu Ryoya, the future Kagayaki, was born in the city of Kanazawa in 1994. Despite being average size at birth Tatsu grew quickly, and by the time he reached Kindergarten he was already much larger than other children his age. His passion for sumo began early, and he started practicing the sport in the first grade. At the age of thirteen Tatsu already stood six feet tall, and weighed over 200 pounds. Two years later, having won the National Junior High School Sumo Championship, he would end his formal education and take up sumo full time. Joining Takagawa beya, Tatsu revealed during his maezumo that his idol was Yokozuna Hakuho. He also told the press that he hoped to be a Yokozuna in six or seven years. Tatsu moved quickly through the lower divisions and was promoted to sumo’s third highest rank, Makushita, after only seven tournaments. At the 2012 Hatsu basho, he lost the Makushita yusho in an eight-man playoff. He continued to find success in the division and received a promotion to Juryo at the 2014 November tournament. It was during this basho that he  announced his new shikona, formally taking the name Kagayaki Taishi. He chose to name himself Kagayaki after the shinkansen train of the same name, which connects his hometown of Kanazawa to Tokyo.

After seven basho in Juryo, Kagayaki made his Makuuchi debut in January 2016 alongside fellow Makuuchi rookie Shodai Naoya. While Shodai would go on to a tremendous 10-5 record, a poor performance at the Hatsu basho saw Kagayaki back in Juryo the following tournament. He made his return to the top division two tournaments later. Kagayaki would reach his highest rank of Maegashira 4 after a 9-6 record at the 2017 Natsu basho. The following tournament marked the first time Kagayaki had ever taken on Ozeki and Yokozuna level rikishi, including his childhood idol Hakuho. As a result of this stiff competition, Kagayaki would only manage five wins in Nagoya. A similarly disastrous performance in September of 2017 saw him back in the lower Maegashira for the next basho. A pusher-thruster rikishi, Kagayaki primarily uses oshidashi push out and yorikiri force out techniques to win his matches.


Kagayaki (left) vs. Takakeisho (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=11845
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=3255
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kagayaki_Taishi

Who’s That Rikishi #2: Arawashi Tsuyoshi

Arawashi

Age: 31
Birth Name: Dulgoun Erhebayar
Home Town: Ulan Bator, Mongolia
Stable: Minezaki
Highest Rank: Maegashira 2

While some rikishi experience meteoric rises up the banzuke, for others slow and steady wins the race. This was the path that Arawashi Tsuyoshi took to sumo’s top ranks. Of all the foreign-born rikishi who have ever competed in the Makuuchi division, only one has taken longer to get there than the Mongolian born Arawashi. This long and arduous path began at a 2002 junior sumo tournament. From the beginning, it was obvious that Arawashi was talented. One noteworthy spectator at this tournament was Kyokushuzan Noboru, Mongolia’s first sekitori and veritable department store of sumo techniques. Kyokushuzan was impressed by Arawashi and commented on the young man’s skill on the dohyo. Later that same year Arawashi was invited to join Araiso beya and made his professional debut at the Kyushu basho. At the same time as his debut another foreign-born rikishi, future Ozeki Kotooshu of Bulgaria, was also beginning his career. Though they may have begun together, Kotooshu advanced quickly up the ranks leaving Arawashi behind. Unperturbed, Arawashi vowed to make it to the top division to once again compete against his Bulgarian rival.

Over the next three years, Arawashi made steady progress through the ranks. This progress was disrupted when a dislocated shoulder forced him to withdraw from competition and miss the first two basho of 2006. From this point on his shoulder was prone to dislocation and would afflict the young athlete on seven different occasions. Arawashi eventually relented to getting corrective surgery. While rehabilitating his shoulder, he began to study the techniques of Yokozuna Chiyonofuji, who had also suffered from shoulder dislocation issues throughout his career. In September of 2008, Arawashi relocated to Hanakago beya after his original stable closed due to the retirement of its owner. In the 2011 Nagoya basho, Arawashi was promoted to the Juryo division despite having a losing record in the previous tournament. This unexpected rise up the banzuke was due to the dismissal of several high ranking rikishi who had been implicated in the match-fixing scandal of 2011. Arawashi continued to float in and out of Juryo over the next three years. Hanakago beya would close in 2012 as a result of financial difficulties. Arawashi once again found himself transferring to a new stable. The move to his current stable, Minezaki beya, seemed to have a positive effect on Arawashi. He found more consistency in his sumo and would eventually break into the top Makuuchi division at the 2014 Natsu basho.

Debuting at Maegashira 16, Arawashi became the twenty-first Mongolian to compete in sumo’s top division. Despite reaching Makuuchi he was not able to fulfill his vow of once again meeting Kotooshu on the dohyo. Ironically, Kotooshu announced his retirement at the very basho Arawashi had been added to the top ranks. After a career-high 11-4 winning record at the 2016 November basho, Arawashi was promoted from Maegashira 10 to Maegashira 2, his highest rank to date. Although he only managed to record six wins at this rank, two were kinboshi victories over Kakuryu and Hakuho respectively. Arawashi primarily uses yori-kiri force outs and uwatenage overarm throws to win his bouts. His favorite grip is a migi-yotsu left hand outside, right hand inside hold. After Ishiura, Arawashi is the second lightest rikishi in the top division


Shodai (left) vs. Arawashi (right), Kyushu basho, 2017.


Links:
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=2512
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=2832
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiyonofuji_Mitsugu